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Business Operations

Trends in trimming insurance costs, Part 1

June 15, 2011
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The purchase of insurance has historically allowed business owners the opportunity to accept a known expense (premium) and avoid the unknown expense of an uninsured loss. Now, more than ever before, it is important to use your premium dollars wisely. While it may be tempting to reduce coverage to save on a premium, it’s not wise to give up too much for too little. Review your insurance portfolio regularly to be sure you continue to have adequate coverage, especially when changes and improvements are made to the business.

The purpose of this article is to provide you some guidelines for helping you to protect your assets and your livelihood.

The necessary costs
While no one likes to be told they have to do something, some of your insurance premium is mandated by your obligations to others. For example, do you have a loan or lease on any of your buildings, business personal property or automobiles? If so, the lender or loss payee probably has included in your agreement a requirement that you provide coverage for the property in the event of loss or damage. Property insurance, therefore, will be required.

In these times when bankruptcy seems to be the nemesis of many business owners, and the headache deluxe of most lenders, small deviations from the firm policies requiring insurance to protect the assets that have been used as collateral are disappearing as lenders tighten down. Keeping track of the coverages is even more critical than in most economic cycles and certainly more important than the not so distant past of hurry up loans and easy lending practices. A few of the things you can do to help manage this expense include:

• Review your limits of insurance to be sure they are adequate to protect the property at risk. Too much or too little insurance at the time of a loss can be the make or break issue for staying in business or getting back into business.

• Check your policies to see if the coverage provides replacement cost coverage or if it offers only Actual Cash Value (ACV) protection. In effect, the replacement cost coverage will eliminate the depreciation in value of older equipment. Since many in our business are not choosing to replace older equipment with new equipment, it is harder and harder to find good used equipment — especially when you need it in a hurry at the time of an insured loss. It may cost a little more in premium to purchase adequate limits of insurance to meet insurance to value (explained below) requirements but in the long run if you experience a larger loss, you will reap many times over the benefits of being able to procure new equipment to replace your current equipment.

• Is there a coinsurance or insurance to value requirement that could penalize your settlement in the event of a loss? If you have too little insurance at the time of the loss, you may be paid in proportion to the amount of coverage you purchase when compared to the value of the damaged equipment at the time of the loss.

• Are any of your locations considered vacant by the definition in your policy? If so, are you aware of any exclusions or penalties that might effect how your loss, if any, would be paid? Most insurance contracts today include two definitions of vacant — one for the building owner and one for the tenant. Each requires the stated percentage of the location be occupied and equipped to the extent that it is able to operate in a normal manner. Gone are the days when a building was merely unoccupied if there were some personal property still on premises — even though it was not being operated as a business. Today by definition, a building is vacant and subject to the penalties outlined in the insurance policy if it is not equipped for regular operation.

• Review your deductible (the amount you will need to pay out-of-pocket) in the event of a loss — The higher the deductible, the lower the premium. However, be certain you are not accepting a deductible that will put you into financial distress if you have a loss. One of the unfortunate trends is to raise the deductible to take advantage of short sighted savings in initial premium dollars without concern for the extra out of pocket costs in the event of a loss to meet the requirements of the deductible clause. If you don’t think you can afford the insurance premium today to keep the deductible at a manageable level, how do you expect to afford the additional out-of-pocket costs in the event of a loss.

Part 2, which will appear in next week's eNews, will discuss additional coverages.