Insurance Broker or Agent – Which is Better?

Insurance broker or agent. Which is better? Is there even a difference between a commercial insurance broker and an independent business insurance agent?

Insurance broker or agent can help you get the best value for your insurance

Insurance Broker or Agent – the Legal Difference

Agent and broker are legal terms. They mean something different.

Independent insurance agents contract with insurance companies represent them to the public. Those contracts grant agents the authority to “bind” the insurance company to certain commitments. Agents offer efficiency, flexibility and local knowledge that big insurance companies don’t have. That benefits both the companies and the clients.

Insurance Brokers have no authority to bind insurance companies. The insurance company or its agent must approve a broker’s request to bind insurance coverage.

Duties Owed by Insurance Broker or Agent

A broker’s duty is to their client. They have to be honest with insurance companies, of course. But they have no contractual obligation to any insurance company. In theory, a broker could place their clients’ insurance with any insurer licensed to do business in their state.

An agent owes a duty both to the insurance companies and their client. Because they’re contracted directly with insurance companies, therefore they owe an extra duty to those companies in return for the authority that the companies give them.

An agent also owes duties to their client. In Maine, those duties include:

  • firstly, to act in good faith
  • secondly, to use reasonable care and diligence in serving best interest of the client
  • and finally, to carry out the client’s instructions

Sometimes an Agent is a Broker

Sometimes insurance agents use non-contracted insurance companies to get the best deal for their clients. They may even work with another agent who has a contract to represent a company that they themselves don’t. In those cases, they’re essentially acting as brokers. They have no authority to bind or commit the insurance company. And they owe no contractual duty to the insurer.

How An Insurance Broker or Agent is Paid

Both agents and brokers work on commission. Insurance companies pay a percent of the premium to the producing agent or broker. That commission may also be shared between an agent and a broker.

Some brokers also charge fees to their clients for certain services. For example, clients could hire a broker to help them improve their claim history. Some brokers also charge for transactions, for example issuing proof of insurance.

Advantages of Insurance Brokers vs. Agents

  • First, brokers represent their clients, not insurance companies. They have no contractual obligation to the insurance company.
  • Second, brokers may have access to more insurance companies than an agent. Agents often have contracts with 8-10 insurance companies. In theory, brokers can access any licensed insurer.
  • Third, brokers may provide additional services that agents cannot. For example, claims management, self-insurance or safety consulting.

Advantages of Independent Agents vs. Brokers

  • Speed and efficiency. Agents can bind coverage on behalf of insurers. That reduces the time to put coverage in force. They also know their insurance companies well. They know how to quickly get things done.
  • Insurance company influence. Insurers work closely with their agents. They trust them. They also rely on agents to bring good customers to them. Therefore, agents often have influence with insurers to advocate for their clients.
  • Local knowledge. Many agents are embedded in their communities. They know the geography, culture and customs of their area. They work with families and businesses of all sizes. Brokers tend to be larger and operate in a wider area.

A Maine Independent Agency

Do you live in Maine? Looking for a Portland area independent insurance agent? Contact a Noyes Hall & Allen agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We offer a choice of many of Maine’s top insurance companies. In other words, we can help you find the best fit and value for your insurance. Because we’re independent and committed to you.

Professional Liability Insurance vs. General Liability in Maine – What’s the Difference?

Professional liability insurance and general liability insurance are different. Maine businesses and non-profits may need both. What’s the difference between professional liability insurance and general liability insurance?

Professional liability insurance protects consultants, creatives and more.

What is General Liability Insurance?

GL insurance protects your business’ assets against four types of lawsuits:

  • firstly, Bodily Injury caused by your actions, or that happen on your premises. For example, slips and falls in a parking lot, or a contractor dropping a hammer from a scaffolding, injuring someone.
  • secondly, Property Damage  that you cause to the property of others. For example, your crew knocks over a valuable vase while cleaning someone’s home.
  • thirdly, Personal Injury, such as slander, libel or invasion of privacy. For instance, a realtor walks into an occupied apartment without warning.
  • and finally, Products and Completed Operations Liability – in case your product or work harms someone or their property. An example: a diner gets food poisoning after eating in your restaurant, or your roofing job fails, causing water damage at someone’s house.

Moreover, general liability insurance pays your legal defense costs against these types of suits – even if you did nothing wrong!

What is Professional Liability Insurance?

Professional liability insurance, sometimes called E&O insurance, protects against claims of:

  • Negligence – for example, a real estate agent fails to disclose a defect in a property, or a planning consultant who misses an important regulation, causing their client to incur large penalties.
  • Improper or Inadequate work – for instance, copyright infringement, improper design, or a clerical error that costs your client money.

Like general liability, professional liability insurance also pays legal defense costs.

Do I Need E&O Insurance?

Professional liability is a hazard in almost any profession. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Architects and engineers
  • Accountants, attorneys and bookkeepers
  • Beauticians, tattoo parlors and other personal service providers
  • Condominium and non-profit boards
  • Consultants and coaches
  • IT professionals
  • Marketers, creatives, drafters and designers
  • Medical and health care professionals
  • Real estate and property managers

Professional Liability Insurance Questions?

If you have Maine professional liability insurance questions, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen agent for prompt, professional answers. We offer a choice of many of Maines top business insurers. We also have access to dozens of specialty insurers. In other words, we can help you find the best fit and value for your insurance. Because we’re independent and committed to you.

What is General Liability Insurance?

General liability insurance is important for Maine businesses. If you operate a business in Maine, customers or the town may demand a certificate of insurance. This proves that you have general liability coverage. Some people think about liability insurance when they first start their business. However, others don’t think of it until someone asks for proof.

General liability insurance protects you from a lawsuit that can destroy your assets

What Does General Liability Insurance Do?

GL insurance protects your business’ assets against lawsuits in four ways:

  • Firstly, Bodily Injury caused by your actions, or that happen on your premises.
  • Secondly, Property Damage  that you cause to the property of others.
  • Thirdly, Personal Injury, such as slander, libel or invasion of privacy.
  • and finally, Products and Completed Operations Liability – in case your product or work harms someone or their property.

 How Much Business Liability Insurance Do I Need?

Liability insurance protects your assets. Therefore, you should at least carry enough to protect the net worth of your business. Moreover, you may also need a certain limit of liability coverage to work for a certain client. For example, a $1 million per-occurrence limit is common. Higher limits are available, as are commercial umbrella policies, which provide even higher limits.

What General Liability Insurance Does NOT Protect Against

  • Professional Liability, such as improper design, malpractice, errors or omissions. You need separate Maine professional liability insurance to get this coverage.
  • Employment Practices Liability. This covers several HR-related perils. For example, wrongful termination, sexual harassment or employee benefits liability. You should purchase Maine Workers’ Compensation Insurance if you have these exposures.
  • Auto Liability. You should purchase  Maine commercial vehicle insurance if your company owns vehicles. Even if your company owns no vehicles, you should add Hired and Non-Owned Auto Liability coverage to your GL policy.
  • Pollution Liability. If your business uses pollutants, you should purchase separate insurance for this.

How Much does General Liability Insurance Cost?

Rates vary, starting at a few hundred dollars a year. Yours will depend on many factors, including:

  • Type of business or operation;
  • Your revenues or payroll;
  • How long you have been in operation;
  • Personal qualifications and licenses;
  • Prior claims;
  • Whether you combine your business property insurance with your GL coverage.

Business Liability Insurance Questions?

Do you have Maine business liability insurance questions? Contact a Noyes Hall & Allen agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541 for prompt, professional answers. We offer a choice of many of Maines top business insurers. We also have access to dozens of specialty insurers. In other words, we can help you find the right fit for your organization and budget. Because we’re independent and committed to you.

Business Insurance Inspection in Maine: What to Expect

Business insurance inspection is common in Maine. Commercial insurance companies routinely inspect businesses that they protect. Inspections allow them to make sure that they insure businesses that fit their guidelines and that their policyholders are adequately protected.

Is a Business Insurance Inspection Mandatory?

Inspections are expensive for insurance companies. They only perform them when they feel it’s necessary. Often, one of three conditions can cause an underwriter to order an inspection on your business:

  • You recently switched insurance to a new company. The new company wants to make sure that your business meets their underwriting requirements.
  • You recently had a claim. The insurance company may want to make sure that you have repaired any property damage or addressed the cause of a liability or workers comp claim.
  • Your business has expanded or moved. Businesses change, and so do their exposures to loss. Insurance companies inspect periodically to keep up.
  • The insurance company hasn’t inspected in several years. Things can change, even if your business stays about the same size and in the same place. The insurance company wants to make sure that your policy stays up to date in case they have to pay a claim.

inspectorCan I Opt Out of a Business Insurance Inspection?

Every insurance policy is a contract. Each policy has an “inspection clause”, which gives the insurance company the right to inspect your business with reasonable advance notice. If you refuse, it’s a violation of the contract. The insurance company can cancel your business insurance as a result.

Does the Insurance Inspector Need to Get Inside my Business?

Almost always. There are two types of insurance inspections: exterior only; and interior/exterior. The company underwriter decides which report to order based upon what they insure, your claim history, and other factors. Unless your property is a rented apartment building, the inspector will probably want to see all the areas.

What Does an Inspector Look For?

Insurance Inspector Should

Some inspectors are employees of the insurance company, but many are independent contractors. During a routine inspection, the inspector looks for features of your property or operation that can affect insurance claims. Items they typically inspect include:

  • Condition of roof, plumbing, electrical, HVAC and similar systems.
  • General property condition, paying particular notice to maintenance and general housekeeping.
  • Special hazards such as commercial cooking, chemicals, pollutants and machinery.
  • Controls and PPE to protect workers.
  • Dimensions of structures, so they can estimate the cost to rebuild them.

What Happens During a Business Insurance Inspection?

The inspector sends their report to the insurance company underwriter. If no deficiencies are noted, you will probably not hear from anyone. If the underwriter has concerns, they will ask you to address them. It’s important to pay attention and respond to these. Failing to do so can cause insurance price increases, or even policy cancellation.

If you have a question about Greater Portland Maine business insurance,  contact a Noyes Hall & Allen agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We offer you a choice of Maine’s preferred property insurance companies. We’re independent and committed to you.

Non-Admitted Insurance in Maine

“Non-admitted” insurance companies are not approved by the Maine Bureau of Insurance. But they play an important role in Maine’s insurance market. Non-admitted carriers are often called “surplus lines” or “excess lines” insurers. They take higher risks than admitted insurers. That comes at a cost. Here are the pros and cons of the non-admitted insurance market.

non-admitted insurance companies provide a valuable service, with some risk.

The Risk of Non-Admitted Insurance

  • Non-admitted insurance companies’ coverage forms are not approved by Maine regulators. Their customers don’t enjoy many of the Maine Insurance Code’s protections. But they are subject to federal regulation through the Dodd-Frank Act (.pdf, 800+ pages).
  • In case of insurer insolvency, the Maine Guarantee Fund does not apply. Even if a policy is active, claims might not be paid if the company goes bankrupt.
  • The Maine Bureau of Insurance doesn’t review or approve non-admitted insurance rates. They do with admitted insurers. Non-admitted insurers may charge what the market will bear.
  • Many non-admitted insurance policies have a “minimum earned premium” of 25% of the annual premium. Even if you cancel your policy right away, the insurer will keep 3 months’ premium.
  • Non-admitted insurers may add separate policy fees to premium. Those are usually non-refundable. They must add Maine surplus lines tax to the premium, too.

Non-admitted insurance is often more expensive and provides less coverage. That’s why Maine only allows non-admitted carriers to insure risks that admitted carriers refuse.

Non-Admitted Insurance Can be Valuable

Purchasing insurance from a non-admitted carrier isn’t ideal. But it is a valuable service.

  • Some protection is better than none. While non-admitted insurance coverage is restrictive, it can protect customers against catastrophe.
  • Non-admitted coverage can be a temporary solution. It can give you time to make improvements and qualify for insurance from an admitted insurer.
  • Most lenders will accept non-admitted policies as proof of insurance. Lenders require insurance from their borrowers in order to make a loan.

Be a Smart Insurance Consumer

Purchasing insurance from a non-admitted carrier can be risky. Since non-admitted insurers are not covered by the Maine Guaranty Fund, it’s important to research your insurer’s financial strength. But many non-admitted insurers have excellent A.M. Best financial ratings (.pdf). Ask your agent about yours.

Non-admitted insurance proposals list all applicable exclusions, warrantees and coverage forms. You should at least understand them, even if you can’t change them. Your agent should be able to explain them to you. If you’re a client, your Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent can answer questions about your insurance. We’re independent and committed to you.

3 Tips for Buying Portland Maine Business Insurance

Portland Maine business insurance doesn't have to be complicated

Buying Portland Maine business insurance doesn’t have to be complicated. If you own a business, it’s important to protect your asset with commercial insurance. These policies can protect your building and vehicles against liability, theft, fire and more.

Whether you just started a business or need to upgrade your existing commercial insurance, the team at Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance has put together this short list to help you get started. 

1. Find a Reputable Business Insurance Agent

Working with a friendly and reputable local insurance agent takes the hassle out of buying a new commercial insurance. They will ask you some questions to get a better understanding of what coverage you need.

Many Maine people prefer to do business locally. A good local agent knows the area, and what Maine’s unique hazards and opportunities. They can help you compare quotes, understand your coverage and bundle your policies. Check their online reviews to help you choose. 

2. Compare Several Quotes

It’s smart to compare three or more quotes during the commercial insurance buying process to find the right one. Go over each in detail with your reputable agent, asking questions for clarification as needed. Policies will differ on price and coverage so be sure to understand what you’re getting and for what price.

Fortunately, Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance offers a choice of 10 of Maine’s top business insurance companies. That means we can do the shopping and comparison for you, with one stop. 

3. Bundle Your Business Insurance Policies

If you need more than one type of insurance, consider bundling with one insurance company. For example, insuring your business vehicles and your property with the same company can simplify billing and save on your premiums.  

Own a Portland Maine Area Business?

Have insurance questions? Contact a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We offer a choice of  many insurance companies and have served the local business community for almost 90 years. We’re independent and committed to you. 

My Insurance Payment is Late – and It’s Not My Fault!

How to Avoid Mail Delays and Policy Cancellation

“My insurance payment is late, and it’s not my fault!” It’s happening to a lot of people and businesses right now. You don’t get a bill, or it arrives late. You mail the payment to the insurance company, and it isn’t recorded for days. Between COVID era workarounds and USPS issues, insurance billing and payment processing is more unreliable than ever. But it’s still important.

My insurance payment is late! It may not be your fault, but it's still a problem.

On Time Insurance Payment is Critical

If you pay a credit card bill late, you get a late fee. But if your insurance company doesn’t get paid, you might have no insurance. That’s why it’s critical to make your insurance payments on time.

What if the delay is not your fault? You didn’t get a bill. Or you mailed the payment days ago, but the insurance company hasn’t recorded it. It may not matter. Your insurance can still be canceled if your payment is late, no matter the reason.

If your policy cancels, two bad things happen. First, you have no insurance. Second, you’ll pay more for insurance when you need to re-start coverage. So it’s very important to make sure your policy stays active.

Ways to Make Sure Your Insurance Payment is on Time

Businesses and people are finding ways to make sure their insurance payments are on time. Maybe one of these options will work for you:

  • Electronic billing – Sign up to have your bills emailed. That avoids delays in getting insurance bills.
  • Insurance company accounts – Register for an account with your insurance company. Connect via mobile app or computer. These give you access to proof of insurance, and payment and billing info. You can even file and track a claim online through your account.
  • Pay online – Most insurance companies have a way to pay your bill instantly online. You can pay by credit card, debit card or automatic bank account withdrawal. Noyes Hall & Allen clients can find their insurance company here to pay an insurance bill online.
  • Automatic Payments (EFT) – Allow the insurance company to withdraw payments directly from your bank account. This ensures that your policy payments are always up to date.
  • AVOID Bill Pay Services – Many banks offer online bill payment services. These don’t work well with insurance bills. They don’t include your payment slip, and must be manually processed. Also, you may have more than one policy. Without the ticket, the insurance company doesn’t know which one you’re paying.
  • Double check the insurance company’s address – Many insurance companies use payment processing services. These can be thousands of miles from the insurance company office. If you mail your payment to the insurance company, they will forward it to the payment service. This causes delays in recording payments.

Answers to Maine Insurance Billing Questions

If you have an app and an online account with your insurance company, you can answer simple billing questions yourself. But sometimes it’s hard to understand what you owe or why. That’s when an agent can help. They can explain and clarify your insurance billing. Many can even take a payment over the phone if you’re ready to pay.

Southern Maine families and businesses have trusted Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agents for more than 80 years. We can help you set up a company account or payment schedule. We can explain your bill, or even take your payment if you’re in a rush. We offer a choice of many insurance companies and billing plans. We’re independent and committed to you.

Contractors Insurance Audits in Maine – Best Practices Help Avoid Surprises

Contractors insurance audits are important. They help keep insurance costs predictable for all contractors. They also create important information for insurance rate setters. Accurate payroll and sales figures help them know how much premium they must charge to cover losses.

If your audit results in extra premium, it will be due within 30 days. You want to avoid that if possible. Tell your agent if your payroll, sales or subcontractor costs are much higher than the estimate on your policy.

Contractors insurance audits don't have to be painful

Why Am I Getting an Insurance Audit?

Many contractors insurance policies in Maine are auditable. Contractors’ jobs, payroll and subcontractor costs vary each year. In slow work years, claims tend to be lower. In boom years, there are more claims. Insurance companies audit to “true up” premiums with the expected claims.

Types of Contractors Insurance Audits

Your insurance company might audit your results in several ways. The method can change year-to-year. It may depend on the size of your business and current conditions.

  • Online or Mailed Audit – You fill out your own audit on a form and send with quarterly 941 reports.
  • Phone Audit – An auditor will set an appointment to complete the audit by phone. They’ll tell you the information you’ll need. Commonly, quarterly 941 reports, payroll reports, and a list of officers and owners of your business.
  • Physical Audit – An auditor comes to your workplace by appointment. They examine your records in person. The auditor also checks that employees are properly classified based on the work they perform.

What Happens if I Don’t Complete My Contractors Insurance Audit?

Workers compensation insurers must report premiums and losses to NCCI. NCCI uses that information to set rates and experience mods. Insurers can incur penalties for slow or inadequate reporting. General liability insurance uses payroll info too. Your audit information is an important factor in insurance company rate-setting.

Insurers are not going to “go away” if you ignore the audit request. Your audit information is time sensitive, and collecting it is someone’s job.

If you fail to respond to audit requests, the insurance company will bill you for an estimated audit. You do not want an estimated audit. It increases your premium by 25% or more. And you’re contractually obligated to pay it.

Bite the bullet. Complete your audit. It’s not going to go away.

How Do I Prepare For an Insurance Audit?

  • Be ready. Your audit happens at the same time every year.
  • Keep good records throughout the year.
  • Get certificates of insurance for your subcontractors: general liability and workers compensation.
  • Tell your agent during the year about large payroll, sales or subcontractor cost changes, up or down.
  • Keep track of time and payroll for different kinds of work. This can lower your workers comp costs while still protecting you and your workers. Include overtime.
  • Remember that some owners or officers might have waived workers comp coverage.
  • If you have a physical audit, plan to be present and available. The auditor wants to finish their work quickly and thoroughly. The faster they have what they need, the sooner you can get back to work.

Completing Contractors Insurance Audits: Who Can Help?

Completing an online or mailed audit? The insurance company should send detailed instructions. If you’re stuck, you can call the insurance company’s audit department or your agent. Sometimes, your payroll company can assist, too.

What if I Disagree With the Audit Results?

You can dispute an audit if the payroll or classifications are wrong. You can’t dispute just because the premium is higher. Your agent may be able to help, but they don’t have the information unless you authorize the insurance company to share it with them.

Maine Contractors Insurance Answers

Are you a contractor in Southern Maine? Do you have questions about Maine business insurance? Contact a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We have decades of experience and offer a choice of Maine’s top contractors’ insurance companies. We’re independent and committed to you.

Continuing to Serve You – Remotely

We are available to serve you by:

At its core, insurance is about
SPREADING RISK and
HELPING OUR COMMUNITY.
Noyes Hall & Allen believes in these causes.

SPREADING RISK

Insurance customers pay a small amount of money to help those who suffer a catastrophe avoid financial disaster.

While researchers feverishly work to develop a vaccine, health professionals recommend limiting human contact. The goal is to save capacity in the health care system for our most sick and vulnerable neighbors. We care about our clients, our co-workers and our community.

HELPING OUR COMMUNITY

Insurance contributes to the community in many ways. It pays for losses of course. It also enables people to buy vehicles and homes; to start businesses and hire people. Insurance promotes safety and risk education. It provides good jobs for thousands of families. It supports local economies and non-profits.

By serving you remotely, we hope to reduce the community spread of a very serious virus. We want to practice public health safety and risk management. We live and work here, too. Working remotely also allows our team to be with their families. To provide care and comfort during a stressful time.

INDEPENDENT AND COMMITTED TO YOU

Noyes Hall & Allen has been locally owned since 1933. We’re independent – not beholden to any insurance company. That allows us to be committed to YOU, our clients.

We know that you need us. We’ve prepared for an interruption like this. You can still accomplish any insurance transaction thing that you normally do. 

We hope that you and your loved ones remain safe and well. We remain independent and committed to you. We’re always happy to answer any questions about your insurance. Together, we will get through this tough time.

What are the benefits of having commercial insurance in Maine?

Those that are in the Portland, ME area will find that there are plenty of local amenities and a strong local economy. Due to this, Portland can also be a good place to start a small business. If you are going to start a company here, you should get a quality commercial insurance policy. There are several benefits that come when you get this type of insurance coverage here. 

Coverage Gives Important Protection

A key advantage of having commercial insurance in this area is that it will give you very important coverages. With a commercial insurance policy, you can receive property coverage, liability protection, and other forms of protection that are curtailed to your business needs. In a situation where you experience a loss, the commercial insurance policy will prove to be very valuable and could keep your business solvent.

Coverage is Required by Many Stakeholders

Another reason that you may want to get a commercial insurance policy is that it is often required by many different stakeholders. If you would like to lease a commercial space, purchase a building with a mortgage, take out a business loan, or even raise capital, any stakeholder is going to want you to have commercial insurance. This is almost always a requirement under our legal documents as it can help to protect your organization and protects another party’s investment.

As you are shopping for commercial insurance in the Portland, ME area, it is important that you speak with someone that you can trust and help guide your decision. Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance is a great company to contact when you are looking for a new policy. Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance will be able to help you personalize a policy to ensure you are properly protected.