Need-to-know PFL (Paid Family Leave) Information for Covered Employees.
What is Paid Family Leave?
Starting in January 2018, Paid Family Leave (PFL) becomes a mandatory benefit in New York, providing you with job protection and paid time off for these qualifying events:
- To provide care for a family member with a severe health condition
- To bond with a child after birth, adoption, or to welcome a child into foster care
- To cope with a military exigency leave event
3 Important Things to Know About Fire Extinguishers
Whether your home is a standalone single family, condo, apartment or even a mobile home, you need at least one fire extinguisher for it. But if you don’t have the right one, or you haven’t checked it recently, you may have a false sense of security rather than a fire-fighting device. There are a few important things to know about fire extinguishers, but they aren’t complicated. Here are three things to help you get up to speed:
There are extinguishers for each type of fire. Class A: ordinary combustibles, such as wood; Class B: flammable liquids or gasses, such as gasoline or propane; Class C: energized electrical equipment like appliances; Class D: combustible metals; and Class K: cooking oils and greases. An extinguisher that isn’t rated for the fire you’re trying to fight likely won’t help.
Multipurpose extinguishers are widely available. Typically rated for Class A, B and C fires, they are good for most living areas and also work on small grease fires. You need at least one for each level of your home, and one in the garage is a good idea, too. Store them in an accessible area and inspect them regularly for rust and other damage. Also follow any maintenance instructions included with the device. Some need to be shaken regularly, for example.
Remember “P.A.S.S.” when you use your extinguisher. Pull the pin. Aim the nozzle at the fire’s base. Squeeze the lever. Sweep the nozzle back and forth. And always keep your back to an exit when fighting a fire. You need to be able to escape quickly if necessary.
Even more important than knowing how to use your fire extinguisher is knowing when not to use it. If you’d be putting yourself at risk trying to fight a fire, leave the area immediately. You should already have a family fire escape plan in place, so don’t hesitate to use it if there’s any question about your safety.
After all, your life is irreplaceable. Your insurance, however, can help you rebuild your home and replace your belongings. If you’d like to check up on your coverage, give us a call today!
Hurricane Season runs from June 1st through November 30th!
One of the most dramatic, damaging, and potentially deadly events is a hurricane. During a hurricane, your home may be damaged or destroyed by many different storm hazards. For example:
- Debris can break windows and doors, allowing high winds and rain inside the home.
- Large storms (i.e. Hurricanes Hugo, Andrew, Katrina and Superstorm Sandy) can cause tremendous devastation as trees and power lines topple.
- Weak elements of your home can fail, such as windows, doors, and roofing material.
- Roads and bridges can be washed away.
- Coastal storm surges can flood basements and lower levels of your home, threatening life in many circumstances.
- Destructive tornadoes also can be present, occurring well away from the storm’s center.
- Wind damage is not limited to the coastline – it can extend hundreds of miles inland under certain conditions.
Your home is a valuable asset. The costs associated with property damage from hurricanes and the disruption to your life in the aftermath can be significant. Be Prepared! Know what to listen for, Stay Informed, Have a Family Emergency Plan and Know how to Protect your Property!
See the attached (pdf download) for valuable tips and information courtesy of Narragansett Bay Insurance Company.
DID YOU KNOW…
- A study by a major credit card company found that 85% of all data breaches occur at the small business level.
- Organized crime considers small businesses to be low risk, high reward targets.
- Small business owners are popular targets of identity thieves because they have larger lines of credit, higher volume of
transactions and valuable computer networks.
- Common reasons personal information is breached include criminal hacking, lost or stolen laptops, computers, or paper
reports and negligent or malicious employee activity.
- It is illegal for business owners to not report and not send notification to those whose legally protected personal
information is breached.
WHAT ARE THE COSTS OF DATA BREACHES
- Claims for failure to protect information, expense of legally required notifications and credit monitoring to those whose
information is exposed, forensic expense to find out and resolve what happened, public relations expense to maintain
business reputation, regulatory and payment card industry fines and hacker extortion demands.
- In 2011, the average cost to business owners per record compromised was $194.
- Small business owners have gone out of business due to identity thieves impersonating their business and personal
name leading to loan defaults, inability to access credit and loss of business reputation.
- Separate aggregate limits of liability per coverage part, with option to combine into one aggregate limit
- Liability arising from both Data Breach & Security Breach
- Data Breach Expense and Identity Theft expense paid as incurred (pay-on-behalf) instead of by reimbursement
- Defense of Regulatory Proceedings
- Payment Card Industry (PCI) Fines & Penalties
- Data Breach Expense coverage including notification letters, public relations, forensics & credit monitoring.
- Cyber Extortion Expenses
- Website Liability including libel, slander, misappropriation of ideas, plagiarism, piracy, copyright & trademark violations
- Identity Theft expense including credit monitoring & expense to retrain specialists to resolve identity theft for board members and owners
In an effort to pay lower insurance premiums, you can safeguard your business
in many practical ways. Below are some suggestions:
- Install sprinkler systems and make sure they’re maintained;
- Have all electrical wiring properly installed and insulated by a
- Maintain adequate and updated files of business transactions and
personnel information, including all signed agreements;
- Adhere to proper industry-specific safety precautions;
- Have all employees trained in the proper use of equipment — keep manuals
- Make sure there is adequate lighting;
- Have all vehicles regularly maintained, registered, and inspected;
- Allow only employees with good driving records to operate company
- Have clearly marked emergency exits, and hold regular safety drills;
- Limit access and the number of distributed keys to your primary facility
and/or vehicles, warehouses, or other facilities;
- Have an arbitration provision in all your contracts for settling
disputes, and to reduce the costs and hassles associated with those
- Promptly repair any damages, unsafe conditions, or broken equipment.
If you make every effort to keep your employees (and yourself) safe from
physical injury, and if you have your employees read and sign well-crafted
conduct and behavior policies, you can lower your risks of accidents and/or
lawsuits, and in turn, lower your insurance premiums.
Economy, Fees Countersuits and ‘Door Law’ Changing E&O Climate
The economy has taken its toll on all businesses today and law firms are no exception. They have experienced downsizing, pressure to change specialties in order to compete for new business, and other cost cutting measures, according to industry insiders.
“It’s hard to pay bills. Firms are really having to trim employees, trim expenses,” says Kelley Heide Martin, senior claims specialist in the technical resource center of Scottsdale Insurance Co.
From an errors and omissions perspective this spells trouble for some law firms because such cost cutting measures can result in more malpractice claims.
Michele Wade, executive vice president of Lockton Cos., says downsizing the number of attorneys and staff often leads to clients falling through the cracks. “It leads to possibly having the same number of clients and a lot less number of people to help them,” she says. “It also leads to a lot of law firms hiring independent contractors rather than full time lawyers That often can lead to problems for law firms.”
Another cause for concern when it comes to E&O claims stems from what Wade and Martin refer to as “door law,” a circumstance where law firms might choose to represent any client that walks in the door, even when the case involves unfamiliar territory. The competition for new business is leading many firms to go after clients not typically within their legal specialty, Wade and Martin say.
Some of Wade’s law firm clients are moving out of their area of expertise to take a case they wouldn’t take in good economic times, she says. “That leads to mistakes and it often also can lead to putting that client on the back burner when a real case that is in their expertise comes along.”
The bad economy has led to inexperienced attorneys handling areas of law that they may not know well, Martin adds. “That leads to additional errors and admissions claims.”
Collecting Fees and E&O Risk
Another basis for rising E&O claims that has developed as a result of the bad economy are lawsuits against firms arising out of unpaid client fees.
Wade says many E&O claims today are related to fees. “In this economy law firms are not getting paid. Their collections are way down and they tend to want to sue their clients for fees more aggressively than in a good economy,” Wade says.
When clients get sued for unpaid legal fees, a countersuit tends to follow.
“Suits for fees draw counterclaims and that brings professional liability claims,” Wade says. “Often my clients seem to be getting sued just out of their clients wanting to head them off at the pass … It’s a vicious cycle.”
Trying to collect client fees in today’s economy is a huge problem, according to Martin.
“A lot of times if a firm had let their accounts receivable go past 90 days, 120 days, or a year We’re not talking about maybe a $5,000 or $10,000 bill. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars. There comes a point when the firm has to collect that money. They’ll look at suing, either filing a suit or perhaps counterclaiming for their fees,” Martin says.
While law firms must collect on past client fees, from a claims standpoint Martin believes filing a fee lawsuit again a client is never a good idea. “We see that from an insurance company perspective as just one of the worse things you can do because you are inviting the legal malpractice claim.” Martin says suing clients for fees doesn’t typically have a good outcome but instead invites a costly E&O claim for the firm.
Another potential E&O concern for law firms today involves the use of social media and how its use might invite exposures.
Wade believes the use of social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter could potentially be a huge exposure, one many law firms have not been adequately addressing.
“I think that Facebook and Twitter and those types of media are not regulated by a law firm like a Web site would be,” Wade says. “Social media, you can say anything you want I believe that plaintiff attorneys will be using that against law firms who may be discussing cases, a big win, whatever it is, on their Facebook.”
While insurers are not addressing social media use now, Wade sees that attitude changing. “I believe that eventually and probably sooner rather than later, the insurance companies will be putting questions in their applications, possibly exclusions, for Facebook or Twitter type of communication,” Wade predicts.
Martin agrees that the danger of social media use lies in its lack of oversight. “There is no oversight,” she says.
Martin advises lawyers to forego posting anything related to their profession on social media venues. “It’s just not a good idea. It’s definitely an ethical violation. There needs to be some type of oversight by the firm or the attorney themselves. Talk about what you do in your own time. Talk about what your kids do or your latest vacation.”
But Martin says attorneys need to leave business out of social media.
“If you’re in mediation, and you say, ‘hey, they offered me X amount of money. I’m not going to take it because I’m going to get five times that,’ you’ve just blown through about five different ethical rules. That’s going to lead you to a malpractice claim.”
Wade and Martin were speakers on the “The First Thing We Do – Sue All Lawyers: Emerging Themes in Legal Malpractice” panel at the 2010 PLUS International Conference in San Antonio, Texas.
It’s called “sleep insurance” for a reason.
Directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance helps community association board members sleep well at night without worrying that their personal assets are at risk because of a decision or action — or inaction — they make on behalf of the association.
When board members join a community association board, they are volunteering their time and effort and taking on the responsibility of making decisions for the association. Board members are required to interpret and enforce the association’s governing documents. They have a fiduciary duty to make decisions as a reasonably prudent person and to make decisions they believe to be in the best interest of the association.
Even with their best efforts, these actions can lead to potential lawsuits alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, employment or housing discrimination, slander or libel or a host of other potential claims. Lawsuits can seek monetary or nonmonetary relief. A good D&O policy will cover both.
Most states require associations to indemnify board members for decisions they make on behalf of associations. Indemnification is an agreement to provide financial reimbursement to an individual board member or association in case of a specific type of loss.
This means that, if they are sued, the insurance company will pay legal fees or assume the defense. Should they lose the court case, it will pay any judgment or settlement. Not only state laws, but most association governing documents also require board members to be indemnified.
The “insured” in a D&O policy is typically the community association as an entity and any subsidiary of the association. “Insured persons” are commonly defined as those who act in the capacity of past, present, duly elected or appointed officers, directors, trustees, employees, volunteers or committee members. Spouses of insured persons also are covered, which is not always known. Often the community manager is covered under the policy as well.
If a board member is accused of intentionally dishonest or fraudulent acts, a majority of D&O stand-alone policies will provide a defense for the insured persons. Coverage is terminated if it is proven that the allegation is true. A good stand-alone policy will continue coverage until a court or other body makes final judgment. Any theft loss is generally covered by a fidelity or “employee dishonesty” policy, which is separate from a D&O policy.
Community associations face a variety of claims these days. However, there are several types of claims commonly seen. Here are some examples that illustrate why this insurance is so important.
Foreclosure and bankruptcy. One of the fastest growing areas for claims is the wrongful foreclosure of individual units. This has caused a financial burden for many associations who are now being sued for breach of fiduciary duty for failure to maintain the property and mismanagement of funds. A current claim involves a bankruptcy alleging the board conspired with the property manager to defraud the association out of thousands of dollars.
Breach of fiduciary duty. When associations hold elections problems can arise. We have seen claims where losing candidates sue over the election process. In one claim, the candidate demanded a new election, alleging the election was conducted improperly.
Insured v. insured. Another claim seen quite often is “insured vs. insured.” A good example of this is when a unit owner sends a letter to the president of the board of directors demanding that the board use “all means available” to stop improper actions of a board member. The letter alleges they are using association funds to pay personal debts and other expenses not authorized by the association. The unit owner demands that the association recover the allegedly misappropriated funds as well as fees and costs. He files a lawsuit in the name of the association and for the benefit of its members. Sometimes even board members sue other board members.
Many D&O policies specifically exclude coverage of “insured v. insured” claims. Yet it is a potentially costly liability facing associations. A board member’s legal expenses won’t be covered if such claims are excluded.
Breach of contract. When boards terminate contracts with vendors they can be sued for breach of contract. If things go wrong and board members need to break a contract, they are left vulnerable to a lawsuit.
Employment discrimination. When associations decide to terminate employees, problems can arise. Even if you have just one employee, there is a potential for litigation. Wrongful termination, sexual harassment and discrimination are seen all of the time in the community association world.
One way for clients to avoid some of these pitfalls is to hire professionals who specialize in community associations. A professional manager can help ensure board members are making day-to-day decisions in a prudent manner.
About Kevin Davis
Davis is president of Kevin Davis Insurance Services in Los Angeles. .