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Contractors & Pollution Liability – The Risk Is Real

By:  Dan Reith  BA(Hons) CAIB

        Principal Broker

        Reith & Associates Insurance and Financial Services Limited

Contractors, no matter what industry they work in, face environmental risks stemming from operations on a daily basis. For most contractors, a single pollution incident or loss can seriously damage their operations, balance sheet and even reputation. Making matters worse, pollution incidents can be sudden or occur gradually over time. The reality, however, is most contractors do not appreciate the reality of the risk and chose not to protect themselves or their customers.

While many contractors assume that environmental claims will be covered under their commercial general liability (CGL) policy, the unfortunate reality is the most CGLs contain pollution exclusions that leave contractors uninsured in the event of a pollution incident.

The solution: contractors pollution liability (CPL) insurance to ensure they have the right coverage in place to remain secure and profitable.

CPL Coverage Basics

CPL policies provide contractor-based insurance for third-party coverage for bodily injury, property damage, defence, and cleanup as a result of sudden and gradual pollution incidents arising from contracting operations performed by or on behalf of the contractor. CPL insurance is intended to provide coverage to all types of contracting operations, including contractors who are involved in building construction and environmental firms that remediate polluted sites.

CPL policies are offered on either a claims-made or occurrence basis. What’s more, CPL policies are non-standard, meaning each policy is different and can be modified to cover the various needs of the contractor purchasing the policy. Policies can be offered on a project or blanket program basis.

In some instances, CPL policies can also be used to cover losses from civil fines, penalties and punitive damages.

Covered Pollution Incidents

Contractors should keep in mind that CPL insurance policies differ in regard to the types of pollution incidents that are covered. Two important considerations when evaluating CPL insurance policies are:

  • Whether or not the policy will respond to gradual releases of pollutants, as opposed to sudden and accidental releases; and
  • The types of substances that are considered “pollutants” under the terms of the policy.

Generally, policies that cover both gradual and sudden releases of pollutants provide contractors with a broader scope of coverage. In addition, policies that provide a broad definition of pollutants are considered superior to those that contain a narrow definition. Accordingly, it is important that contractors work with their broker to find a CPL policy that is tailored to their needs.

CGL Pollution Exclusions

A primary reason why contractors obtain a CPL policy is due to the various pollution exclusions contained in most CGL policies. The pollution exclusions found in most CGL policies take one of two forms, either “absolute” or “total.”

CGL policies with an absolute pollution exclusion remove coverage for most pollution events that would occur in the course of an insured’s business operations. However, despite its name, an absolute pollution exclusion may preserve coverage for certain incidental pollution damages, products and completed operations liability, and certain off-premises work.

However, more commonly, CGL policies include a more restrictive “total pollution exclusion.” This type of exclusion effectively removes coverage for any event the insurer characterizes as a pollution incident.

Contractual Requirements

Contractual requirements serve as another motivating factor that lead many contractors to obtain a CPL policy. In many instances, project owners and general contractors will require contractors to obtain pollution insurance that meets certain, predetermined standards. From this perspective, having a CPL insurance policy in place can serve as an upfront sales tool during the bidding process that enables contractors to qualify for opportunities when such coverage is required.

Finding the Right Policy

Regardless of specialty, all contractors should be mindful of the pollution risks associated with their work. A CPL insurance policy can provide much-needed security in the event of a pollution incident, even in the most unlikely of circumstances.

CPL insurance is not only good for business, but it also provides peace of mind in industries that are full of surprises and risks. Reith & Associates is available to work with your organization to find the CPL coverage that is right for you.

Nikki Johnson No Comments

Crime Prevention Tips During COVID-19 Shutdown – Making your business less of a target

If it isn’t bad enough, that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused many small businesses to close their doors, our local police services report of a significant spike in calls for break and enters, property theft and vandalism to business properties. 
If your business has been forced to close, here are some key crime prevention steps you can take to be less of a target:

  • Remove all valuables from storefront displays to reduce smash-and-grab thefts
  • Remove all valuables such as cash from the till and leave it open. Place the empty cash tray in plain view on the counter to signal there’s no money in the till
  • Remove signage from front windows so police can see the inside unobstructed during patrols
  • Remove any items of value away from window displays, place in the back of the store so they are not visible 
  • Consider installing an alarm monitoring system. If you already have one, ensure the contact list is up-to-date, responders are aware of their duties and process should they get a call, and it is activated when the building is not occupied
  • Consider installing a surveillance camera system that can be monitored online by owner/management
  • Clearly post signage on the door/window to indicate that the premises are monitored by an alarm company; that no money is kept on the premises and contact information for police and the business owner in case a member of the public sees damage to the property or suspicious activity
  • If the premises are closed for an extended period of time clean all glass surfaces and create a tracking log of when cleaning was completed. This may help investigators with suspect fingerprints in the event of a break-in
  • Consider applying a laminate on all windows and glass doors to prevent the glass from being broken from blunt force thereby preventing entry during attempted break-in
  • Install latch guards on doors to protect against prying including on secondary doors such as employee and loading entrances
  • Keep some lighting on inside for surveillance opportunities during the evening
  • Ensure all doors are properly secured and regularly check all exterior lighting is functioning
  • Remove material around the exterior of the property that may be used to gain entry
  • Check on your business daily, both in and out, at different times each day and report any suspicious activity to your local police as soon as possible 
  • Prevent and reduce the opportunity for crime to occur.  Be a good business neighbour, when checking on your property, check on neighbours’ property too
  • For more info http://www.stps.on.ca/crime-prevention-tips-for-business-owners/

Taking these steps will make your business less of a target and will ensure you meet the requirements of your insurance policy.  Our team is available to assist with any questions or concerns you may have about your coverage during a shut-down. We welcome your call or email inquiry. Stay safe, stay healthy.

Nikki Johnson No Comments

Your Insurance and the Covid-19 Pandemic

By:  Dan Reith BA(Hons) CAIB
President/Principal Broker
Reith & Associates Insurance and Financial Services Limited

We are in the midst of an unprecedented situation in Canada and around the world.  COVID-19 is impacting all segments of our economy creating challenges never, before experienced.  Let us help you better understand the reality of your insurance and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Personal Insurance

There is no coverage under any personal insurance, home, auto or critical illness, that provides protection or indemnification against any financial loss as a result of a viral pandemic–Covid-19. 

Business Insurance

There is no coverage, under the standard commercial property policy, for any loss or cessation of business income as a result of a temporary business shutdown and/or closure caused by a viral pandemic. Simply because a viral pandemic is not an insured peril.  A property and liability policy insures the physical premises and therefore the insured peril must damage the premise preventing the business from operating. Pandemics do not negatively impact the premise.  It is important to understand that:

  1. Not all standard commercial insurance policies carry business interruption or income replacement.
  2. Policies that do carry business interruption, have a standard language in the contract that requires a “trigger” being an insured peril to cause damage to the premises of the business and/or a contributing or recipient property, in order to render the premises unusable and therefore the business unable to generate revenue.  This causes the policy to respond and the quantifiable loss is insured and replaced in accordance with the settlement option of the policy.  In the case of a viral pandemic, Covid-19, there is no damage to the business premise, by an insured peril, therefore, there is no physical reason for the business to cease operations or stop generating revenue and therefore, the coverage is not triggered.
  3. Where a policy contains business interruption, it typically carries an extension that provides for cases where a business is shut down by what is termed “civil authority”—an order, by a government body, not to access a property.  Again, however, the trigger is a physical loss to the premise and/or adjoining or neighbouring premise by an insured peril. In the case of Covid-19, the government order to close one’s business is effectively an arbitrary decision based on public health policy, not the cause of a real physical loss or damage to the business premises making it unsafe to access or occupy. Thus, the civil authority extension does not apply.

There are certain exceptions, to the norm, where certain industries can purchase secondary pandemic coverage; but this is restricted to niche industry classes such as healthcare and food processing because in these limited classes the loss can be isolated and quantified.  In the broad sense, as we are encountering today, such business interruption losses are not isolated, limited or controllable with reasonable certainty; therefore, not quantifiable.

Here are some common Q & A’s we have been fielding:

I pay my premiums monthly, what happens if I don’t have the money to pay my premium.

If your income, business and/or personal, is compromised in any way, and there is a likelihood you will not be able to make your premium payment call us immediately!  Generally speaking; most insurers are waiving NSF charges and not cancelling policies for non-payment in the first month.  Beyond that, insurers are willing to review and negotiate on a case by case basis.  Be proactive we are here to a find a solution that works best for you. Note, that while your insurer may be waiving NSF fees, that does not mean your bank is.  That is a conversation you need to have with your bank. 

What happens to my coverage if my business is shut down?

There is no change in coverage during the government mandated shut down.  That said, you must continue to maintain any warranty’s and or requirements your policy may have, i.e. alarms activated when building not occupied, heating on during heating season, building attended at least once every 72 hours.  Contact us so we can review your specific requirements to ensure compliance, we don’t want any surprises should you have a claim during this period of uncertainty.

Can I reduce coverage during shutdown?

Ultimately, you can make a change to coverage at any time.  In practical terms, any changes made need reflect the actual circumstances of your operational changes during the pandemic.  It is best to speak directly with your insurance provider to review operations to best determine what is right for you.

I/we are not working, currently laid off, what can we do to reduce our insurance costs?

That depends on your personal circumstances, needs and expectations in the event of a loss.  Call us, we will review your current coverage and find a solution to bring down your premium as best we can without placing you in jeopardy.  Note, changing insurance companies for a lower premium will STILL cause an early policy cancellation penalty if we make the change before renewal.  Insurance companies, at present, are not waiving early cancellation penalties, rather working with policyholders to make premium payment manageable.    

 I am laid off, I can get a job doing food delivery, am I insured?

No, if your current policy provides coverage for you to drive to and from work you are NOT insured to be a delivery service.  If you do this, call our office, to learn what the additional premium cost will be, it may not make sense.  If you do not, and you are in an accident while in the course of delivering food and/or other goods your insurer can deny the claim, both the repair/replacement of your car and/or liability if you are sued for injury to a third party.*

*some statutory coverage may apply speak to your broker for full details.   

To assist our customers and to keep our business going, we are now offering delivery service.  Are we insured?

Offering delivery is a great way to respond to customer demand; for some a great business decision, however, if you are using vehicles NOT insured as delivery vehicles, then there may not be coverage if a claim is filed as a result of a loss from delivering goods to a customer.  If your employees are using their personal vehicles to deliver to customers there is NO coverage for them unless their vehicle is rated, and a premium is paid for delivery purpose.  Speak to us before you make this operational change and/or offer a new delivery service to your customers; and do not require your employees to use their personal vehicles.  Reduce your liability exposure, partner with a professional delivery service instead.          

Will insurance companies honour claims during this period?

All insurers claim departments remain ready to respond.  Their claims representatives will be working in accordance with current protocols for personal and community safety and that may mean a delay in the settlement process, but it is business at usual at the present time.

We trust this information will assist to help you work through the current pandemic.  If you have any questions, or concerns about coverage during this uncertain period, we are here for you, we want to provide the right solutions for where you are today.  Let’s work through this together.  That is what we are here for. 

We look forward to hearing from you.

Nikki Johnson No Comments

The 10 Most Common Life Insurance Myths

Life insurance. Just the term itself can put people on edge. People might think they are wasting time and money if they sign up for life insurance when they don’t consider it necessary.

However, you should purchase life insurance because it will be essential sometime in the future. Life insurance protects your loved ones in case something happens to you by designating beneficiaries who will collect financial benefits upon your death.

Term life insurance is generally the simplest and cheapest form—you buy coverage for a specific time period, and it can usually be renewed, but premiums will increase based on age and health factors. All other types of life insurance are permanent, but there are a few varieties—whole life, universal life and variable life. Each type is slightly different, making each one ideal for certain types of people.

The ten myths listed below are some of the largest misconceptions individuals have regarding the necessity of life insurance.  Read on to learn why life insurance is important to purchase.

Myth 1:  I just simply don’t see the need for life insurance.

No one is immune to having to pay back his or her financial obligations after death. If you have a vehicle to pay off, or credit card or student loan debt that has accumulated, life insurance is a very beneficial option for you. If you die unexpectedly, no one waves a magic wand and makes those responsibilities disappear—you have to make the preparations to take care of them, or your family members will be stuck with the bills.

Myth 2:  I’m young. Why would I start spending my money on life insurance now?

Being young also usually means you’re more active and probably putting yourself at risk more often than the older generation by travelling, clubbing, hiking, boating, driving longer distances and staying out later. Your body may be younger and less likely to break down on you, but your high-risk activities put you in the same boat as older, less healthy people.

Myth 3: I’m a stay-at-home parent.

There isn’t a need to replace my income, since there isn’t an income to replace. If you’re a stay-at-home parent and you pass away, your spouse may not be able to afford childcare for your kids. Or, if there is no partner in the picture, your relatives or friends might not be able to take care of your children in a way that allows them to attend the same school, with the same parenting style you used, etc. Also, when the time comes for college, you will want your children to have the option of affording the education they desire.

Not having an income and staying at home means you are saving money you would be spending from a spouse’s income (or from any other source of income) on childcare and even on tending to your home. When you’re gone, those things still need to be covered, and life insurance can do that for you.

Myth 4: My kids are all adults and my house has been paid off, so what do I need life insurance for?

Everyone has daily living expenses. Just because the home is paid off doesn’t mean there aren’t other financial obligations for which your spouse would be responsible, such as owning multiple cars, a boat, an RV or another large purchase you both made later on in your lives.

Also, consider this: If your spouse outlives you by 10, 20 or even 30 years, he or she might not be able to afford to stay in an assisted living centre when he or she can no longer take care of him- or herself. You need to ensure that your spouse continues living with the same financial security he or she has with you now. You don’t want your spouse to fear having to take care of daily expenses with only half the income.

Myth 5: I’m a smoker. Insurance companies won’t even consider me.

Being a smoker doesn’t mean you can’t get coverage. Your premium will be a bit higher than the premium for someone who doesn’t smoke, but it is more affordable than you may think.

Myth 6: Even if I quit smoking, I’ll always be considered a smoker to insurance companies and be stuck paying a higher premium.

Most insurance companies consider you a non-smoker if you’ve stayed away from cigarettes for at least a year. Even if the first six months were an accident because your spouse hid your cigarette packs, you can most likely get your premium lowered after a year.

Myth 7: Life insurance seems too good to be true.

It can seem that way, but it’s not. Life insurance isn’t like one of those free vacation spam emails—it’s the real deal. As long as you keep paying the premium, you’re covered, whether that is until your kids move out or until your home is paid off.

Myth 8: It is too much of a hassle to obtain life insurance.

Finding life insurance isn’t as hard as you think. Getting a life insurance quote is quick and painless. All you need to do is provide basic information about yourself, including your height, weight, age and gender. Once you have a quote, you can choose the right coverage for you.

Myth 9: I get life insurance through my job.

Why would I need more? The life insurance you get through your job might not be adequate coverage. You should compare your family’s living expenses with your coverage to see if it’s sufficient to cover all of your family’s needs. You should be thinking about future responsibilities as well, like being able to pay for your children’s education after you’re gone.

Also keep in mind, like all good things, your employer-paid coverage ends when the coverage limit is met—which is the maximum amount your employer will pay out upon your death. Most experts suggest obtaining coverage five to eight times your yearly salary. If you are only covered for half of that amount, what will your family do when their living expenses exceed that amount?

Myth 10: My mortgage lender provides me with coverage. Isn’t that enough for me?

Your mortgage isn’t the only expense your spouse or children will have to take care of if you pass away—there are cars, college education, food, medical expenses, funeral costs—the list goes on. Life insurance can cover those for you.

By: Dan Reith BA(Hons) CAIB
President/Principal

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Cyber Risks & Liabilities

By:  Dan Reith  BA(Hons) CAIB
President/Principal

3 Ways to Protect Yourself From Credential Stuffing

Credential stuffing attacks occur when a malicious party takes a stolen username and password, and tries them on a variety of different websites. For example, a hacker may have purchased a Google username and password from the dark web. Assuming that you use the same password for multiple accounts, the hacker would test these credentials on other platforms (e.g., banking or social media websites) using botnets (groups of computers tasked with various commands).

Essentially, by using information from one account, criminals can potentially access data from a variety of platforms, draining bank accounts or gathering information they can sell to other malicious parties.

Credential stuffing can affect anyone, from individual users to the biggest companies. Thankfully, because credential stuffing relies on victims having the same password for multiple accounts, there are some simple ways to protect yourself:

  1. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts—Credential stuffing only works because many people use the same password for multiple accounts. Change your passwords often and use a unique password for each account.
  2. Use two-factor authentication—Complex passwords can deter cyber criminals, they can still be cracked. To prevent access to your accounts, two-factor authentication is key. Through this method, users must confirm their identity by providing extra information (e.g., a phone number or unique security code) when attempting to access corporate or personal applications, networks and servers. This additional login hurdle means that would-be cyber criminals won’t easily unlock an account.
  3. Create strong password policies—For employers, ongoing password management can help prevent attackers from compromising your organization’s password-protected information. Create a password policy that requires employees to change their password on a regular basis, avoid using the same password for multiple accounts and use special characters. Long passphrases are becoming increasingly popular.

Even the most robust and expensive data protection solutions can be compromised should an employee click a malicious link or download fraudulent software. As such, it’s critical for organizations to thoroughly train personnel on common cyber threats and how to respond.

Mobile Device Security

Gone are the days when the most sensitive information on an employee’s phone was the names and phone numbers of their contacts. Now, a smartphone or tablet can be used to gain access to anything, including emails, stored passwords and even proprietary company data. Depending on how your organization uses such devices, unauthorized access to the information on a smartphone or tablet could be just as damaging as a data breach involving a traditional computer system.

In order to protect your organization, there are a number of mobile device security measures to consider:

  • Establish a mobile device policy—Before issuing mobile phones or tablets to your employees, establish a device usage policy. Provide clear rules about what constitutes acceptable use as well as what actions will be taken if employees violate the policy. It is important that employees understand the security risks inherent to mobile device use and how they can mitigate those risks. Well-informed, responsible users are your first line of defence against cyber attacks.
  • Establish a bring your own device (BYOD) policy—If you allow employees to use their personal devices for company business, make sure you have a formal BYOD policy in place. Your BYOD security plan should also include the following practices:
    • Installing remote wiping software on any personal device used to store or access company data.
    • Educating and training employees on how to safeguard company data when they access it from their own devices.
    • Informing employees about the exact protocol they must follow if their device is lost or stolen.
  • Keep the devices updated with the most current software and anti-virus program—Software updates to mobile devices often include patches for various security holes, so it’s best practice to install the updates as soon as they’re available. There are many options to choose from when it comes to anti-virus software for mobile devices, so it comes down to preference. Some are free to use, while others charge a monthly or annual fee and often come with better support.
  • Back up device content regularly—Just like your computer data should be backed up regularly, so should the data on your company’s mobile devices. If a device is lost or stolen, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your valuable data is safe.

Because of their convenience, smartphones and tablet devices have become a universal presence in the modern business world. As usage soars, it becomes increasingly important to take steps to protect your company from mobile threats, both new and old.

Cyber Incidents Cost More Than You Might Think

As technology advances, companies are collecting, storing and transferring more personal information about their customers and employees than ever before. This not only opens organizations up to a cyber attack, but it also means that just one breach can affect thousands or even millions of individuals. Unfortunately, for organizations, cyber incidents cost more than just data:

  • Data breaches are becoming increasingly expensive. While cyber liability insurance can help offset the costs of a data breach and subsequent litigation, just one breach can be financially devastating. According to a survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a data breach was $5.78 million, or $255 per lost or stolen record.
  • Regulatory costs can be significant. With the advent of Canada’s Digital Privacy Act (DPA), which amends the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), failing to handle a data breach properly can result in major fines. As part of PIPEDA, companies must comply with mandatory data breach notification and reporting requirements. Failing to do so can result in fines of $100,000 per violation.
  • Cyber incidents can lead to serious reputational damage, significantly impacting directors and officers. Reputational damages can easily reach six figures. According to Kaspersky Lab, a global cyber security company, a single cyber incident recently caused brand damage of $8,000 for small and medium-sized businesses and $200,000 for larger organizations. When wide-scale breaches occur, a company’s reputation can be tarnished, sometimes permanently. In addition, the public holds organizations accountable for major losses of personal data, and directors and officers are often the ones who take the blame.

For me assistance in reducing your exposure to cyber crime, contact our office, our development team is the only local insurance provider able to assist with strategies, workplace policies and training program.

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Looking After Your Privacy | Cyber Risk & Liability – Privacy and Cyber Security

With the enormous amount of sensitive information stored digitally, companies need to take appropriate measures to ensure this data is not compromised. It is the responsibility of business owners to protect their clients’ data. This can be done by buying appropriate insurance cover or assume responsibility on the own by understanding the risks involved with data security and investing in the appropriate technology, staff training and operating policy enforcement to prevent a privacy breach. 

Know the Risks

The first step in protecting your business is to recognize the types of risk:

  • Hackers, attackers and intruders.  People who seek to exploit weaknesses in software and computer systems for their personal gain. Their intentions are usually malicious and their actions are typically in violation of the intended use of the systems that they are exploiting. The results of this cyber risk can range from minimal mischief (creating a virus with no negative impact) to damaging activity (stealing or altering a client’s information). 
  • Malicious code. This is the term used to describe code in any part of a software system or script that is intended to cause undesired effects, security breaches or damage to a system. 
    • Viruses: This type of code requires that you actually do something before it infects your system, such as open an email attachment or go to a particular Web page.
    • Worms: This type of code propagates systems without user interventions. They typically start by exploiting a software flaw. Then, once the victim’s computer is infected, the worm will attempt to find and infect other computers.
    • Trojan horses: Trojans hide in otherwise harmless programs on a computer, and much like the Greek story, release themselves to cause damage. A popular type of Trojan is a program that claims to speed up your computer system but actually sends confidential information to a remote intruder.

IT Risk Management Practices

To reduce your cyber risks, it is wise to develop an IT Risk Management Plan at your organization. Risk management solutions use industry standards and best practices to assess hazards from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification or destruction of your organization’s information systems. Consider the following when implementing risk management strategies at your organization:

  • Create a formal, documented risk management plan that addresses the scope, roles, responsibilities, compliance criteria and methodology for performing cyber risk assessments. This plan should include a characterization of all systems used at the organization based on their function, their importance to the organization, and the data stored and processed.
  • Review the cyber risk plan on an annual basis and update it whenever there are significant changes to your information systems or the facilities where systems are stored, or other conditions occur that may affect the impact of risk to the organization.

Due Diligence When Selecting an ISP

Your organization should take precautionary measures when selecting an Internet service provider (ISP) to use for company business. An ISP provides its customers with Internet access and other Web services. In addition,

the company usually maintains Web servers, and most ISPs offer Web hosting capabilities. With this luxury, many companies perform backups of emails and files, and may implement firewalls to block some incoming traffic.

To select an ISP that will reduce your cyber risks, consider the following:

  • Security – Is the ISP concerned with security? Does it use encryption and SSL to protect any information that you submit?
  • Privacy – Does the ISP have a published privacy policy? Are you comfortable with who has access to your information, and how it is handled and used?
  • Services – Does your ISP offer the services that you want and do they meet your organization’s needs? Is there adequate support for the services provided?
  • Cost – Are the ISP’s costs affordable and are they reasonable for the number of services that you receive? Are you sacrificing quality and security to get a lower price?
  • Reliability – Are the services provided by the ISP reliable, or are they frequently unavailable due to maintenance, security problems and a high volume of users? If the ISP knows that its services will be unavailable, does it adequately communicate that information to its customers?
  • User supports – Are there any published methods for contacting customer service? Do you receive prompt and friendly service? Do their hours of availability accommodate your company’s needs?
  • Speed – How fast is your ISP’s connection, and is it sufficient for accessing your email or navigating the Web?
  • Recommendations – What have you heard from industry peers about the ISP? Were they trusted sources? Does the ISP serve your geographic area?

Protection is our Business

Your clients expect you to take care of their sensitive information. We can help you plan for a potential issue. Contact Reith & Associates Insurance and Financial Services Limited today; we have the tools necessary to ensure you have the proper coverage to protect your company against a data breach.

With the enormous amount of sensitive information stored digitally, companies need to take appropriate measures to ensure this data is not compromised. It is the responsibility of business owners to protect their clients’ data. This can be done by buying appropriate insurance cover or assume responsibility on the own by understanding the risks involved with data security and investing in the appropriate technology, staff training and operating policy enforcement to prevent a privacy breach.