What is General Liability Insurance?

If you operate a business in Maine, you may be asked for a certificate of insurance to prove that you have general liability coverage. Some people think about liability insurance when they first start their business; others don’t think of it until someone asks for proof.

What Does General Liability Insurance Do?

GL insurance protects your business’ assets against lawsuits for:

  • Bodily Injury caused by your actions, or that happen on your premises.
  • Property Damage  that you cause to the property of others.
  • Personal Injury, such as slander, libel or invasion of privacy.
  • 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. So, you should at least carry enough to protect the net worth of your business. You may also be required to carry a certain limit of liability coverage in order to perform work for a certain client. 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, such as wrongful termination, sexual harassment or employee benefits liability. You should purchase Maine Workers’ Compensation and Employment Practices Liability Insurance if you have these exposures.
  • Auto Liability. You should purchase  Maine Business Auto commercial vehicle insurance if your company owns vehicles. 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?

If you have Maine business 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. That means we can help you find the right fit for your organization and budget. Call us at 207-799-5541. 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.

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.

Adding Outside Dining to Your Portland Maine Restaurant

Portland and South Portland Maine recently passed ordinances expanding outdoor seating options for local restaurants. These respond to indications that coronavirus is less likely to spread outdoors. Soon, some local restaurants will be able to serve patrons :

  • on sidewalks
  • in parking lots or closed streets
  • in on-street parklets.

Transitioning a Restaurant to Outdoor Dining

Outdoor dining isn’t for every restaurant. Depending on your cuisine, location, formality and clientele, you may choose not to serve al fresco. If you do, here are some things to consider.

  1. Check city rules and resources. Portland and South Portland city web sites have the ordinances and applications for permits and street closures.
  2. Up your cleaning game. During the COVID threat, you’re already doing extra cleaning and disinfecting. Outside adds new cleaning challenges: pollen, dust, litter and even insects.
  3. Keep it light – and smooth. Make sure there’s enough light for employees and customers to see well. Paint or tape the edge of irregular surface levels. Avoid loose cords and other trip hazards.
  4. Watch the skies. That includes the sun. Plan your seating to avoid excessive sun exposure during meal service, if possible. Summer thunderstorms can develop fast. Have a plan to quickly evacuate your dining area and secure umbrellas and other furniture. That will help avoid injury and damage.
  5. Beware of vehicles. Create barriers between diners and vehicles – including bikes and scooters that might be on sidewalks.
  6. Watch outdoor flames. Keep propane heaters, cooking equipment and other heat sources away from flammables like fabrics and awnings.
  7. Check your insurance. Many liquor liability policies only cover you “on premises.” Does that extend to a parking lot or street? The same with property insurance for your outdoor seating and fixtures. Ask your agent about your insurance coverage.

Do you own a Portland Maine area restaurant, cafe, food truck, brewery or other food service business? Contact a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We’re local business owners, just like you. We offer a choice of Maine’s top business insurance companies. We’re independent and committed to you.

Should You Cancel Workers Comp Insurance When You Lay Off Employees?

If a business downturn causes you to lay off employees, you might want to cancel your workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp coverage is required when you hire someone. Without employees, it’s overhead you would like to cut.

But canceling your insurance isn’t always the best move. Here’s why.

Three Reasons Not to Cancel Workers’ Comp Too Quickly

  1. It’s hard to scale up again. Do you expect the downturn to be temporary? You will need to re-apply for workers’ comp when you hire employees again. This costs time, effort and money.
  2. You may lose valuable dividends. MEMIC, Maine’s largest workers’ comp insurer, has paid dividends several years in a row. If you cancel, your business has to wait 3 years to start earning dividends again.
  3. You may lose loss-free discounts. By canceling your policy, you lose the benefit of any loss-free discounts you’ve earned. When you re-start your policy, it takes time to accumulate those discounts again.

Cost-Cutting Alternatives to Canceling Your Workers’ Compensation Policy

  1. Reduce estimated payroll. Workers’ comp premiums are based upon payroll amounts. Layoffs mean lower payrolls, so it’s fine to reduce estimates. This may create a refund without actually canceling your policy.
  2. Change payment plans. Most workers’ comp insurers offer installment plans. Spreading payments may allow you to better match cash flow without losing benefits.

Updating your Maine workers’ comp policy may be smarter than canceling it altogether. Closing your business, or have no plans to hire for more than a year? Then it’s proper to cancel your workers’ comp insurance.

Maine Workers’ Compensation Insurance Questions?

For answers to your Maine workers’ compensation questions, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We’re independent and committed to you.

Does Insurance Cover Loss of Business from Coronavirus?

UPDATED 4/2/2020

COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease), has everyone’s attention. It’s changed behavior around the world, and now it’s here. Business owners feel it. Emergency declarations have forced many to close for the duration.

For those businesses remaining open, routines and procedures are completely disrupted. No more non-essential shopping, eating at restaurants or going to shows. No going out for drinks or coffee. Instead, people are stockpiling supplies, staying home, washing, disinfecting and keeping their distance.

COVID-19 is causing turmoil for businesses large and small. Inventory control and staffing are all messed up. Marketing and sales are on hold as clients and prospects are otherwise occupied.

What if Your Business Suffers due to Coronavirus?

Many businesses feel threatened.

  • What if fear causes my customers to stay home?
  • What if I can’t get inventory or supplies?
  • How can I keep my employees safe?
  • What if my employees get sick and can’t work?
  • What if I have to disinfect or close my workplace?
  • The government has restricted movement in my area.
  • What if economic fear or market changes cause me to lose sales?

Do My Policies Cover Business Interruption?

Unfortunately, business insurance is very unlikely to cover you against lost business due to Coronavirus. Even policies that provide “”business interruption” coverage exclude damage caused by communicable diseases. They also require physical damage to your premises by a covered peril, like fire or water.

If Not, Why Not?

You probably don’t care about the reason behind the exclusion, but there is one. Put simply, diseases are too uncertain for insurers to accurately price insurance to cover them.

Insurance companies have a lot of experience with fires, hurricanes, and other disasters. They know how to price insurance for that, and they know that these perils are local or regional in scope. They can collect enough premium from everyone to pay for the few who suffer a loss.

Viruses are extremely rare – or even unknown – until they’re widespread. And it’s hard to quantify a resulting drop in business. Profits and sales are subject to changing factors: weather, competition, consumer preferences. It’s very hard to put a dollar value on lost sales directly caused by a public health threat.

Should I File a Business Interruption Claim Anyway?

Although the chances of coverage are very small, each business situation is unique . Coronavirus is new for everyone. Insurers are trying to deal with it just like everyone else. Coverage interpretations and response may evolve.

No one wants to file a claim, only to have it denied. But, you may choose to anyway. Here are two reasons why it might be a good idea to file a claim with your insurer.

  1. By contract, insurance companies must investigate each claim to determine if coverage applies. If they find that coverage does not apply, they must show the wording in your insurance policy that precludes it.
  2. The government could create a relief program in the future that might apply to your loss of income. Government could also force insurers to create coverage, in spite of policy wording. Such government actions would probably require you to prove your loss. You might also have to show that your insurance policy provided no coverage for the incident.

Resources for Small Businesses Affected by COVID-19

Congress passed the CARES Act in March, 2020 to help people and businesses weather the economic effect of Coronavirus. This Small Business Owners Guide to the CARES Act provides a good recap of the bill. It tells you how to apply for benefits, which are widespread. We encourage our affected clients to apply early if they’re affected.

The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million. The goal is to help small businesses overcome a temporary loss of revenue.  These are loans, not grants. They must be repaid.

The Maine CDC Coronavirus information page is a good resource for Maine businesses and citizens. It contains factual and timely information about the disease and its effect on our state.

We’re Here to Help our Neighbors

We are a local business. We live and work in Greater Portland. While insurance may not be able to help our clients directly, we still want to be accessible. We want to help where and how we can.

While our office is closed to the public, we’re available by phone, email or our website. Our insurance company partners also continue serving customers while keeping their employees safe.

Stay Safe

Public health scares and economic uncertainty create anxiety. Most business owners feel responsible for the safety of their employees and customers, as well as their loved ones.

We hope that all or our clients, friends and business partners remain safe and calm during these trying times. We’re here to answer your insurance questions.

In this anxious season, check on family and friends. Be kind to each other. Together, we can make it through.

Independent Contractors and Maine Workers Compensation

Hiring an independent contractor a great way to expand your company’s products and services without adding overhead. The right sub can make you look good.

Subcontractor or Employee?

By Maine law, a worker is an employee unless they meet tests to be an independent contractor. That makes them subject to employment tax and workers compensation. If your Maine business hires independents, here’s what you need to do.

Get Documentation from Subcontractors

Workers compensation charges sub costs as payroll unless you have proof of subcontractor status. That can be a very expensive surprise. And the bill is due in lump sum.

Reduce Your Maine Workers Comp Costs

Certificates of insurance and WCB266s are “get out of jail free” cards. Use them to avoid a costly workers compensation insurance audit.

For more Maine Workers Compensation insurance tips, contact Noyes Hall & Allen in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We’re independent and committed to you!

What Maine Small Business Owners Need to Know About Insurance

Running your small Portland, ME business can be a rewarding and satisfying endeavor. However, without the right liability insurance coverage, running your small business open you up to lawsuits. Here is a brief description from Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance of the most common business liability insurance.

Worker’s Comp

Worker’s compensation insurance is required in Maine for any business with employees. As a business owner, you need to stay up to date on your state’s requirements concerning worker’s compensation insurance. Worker’s compensation insurance protects your employees when they are injured on the job. This also protects you as the employer from liability for said injuries.

Liability Insurance

General liability is one of the most important types of insurance for the small business owner to have. Liability can come in many forms. Individuals can get injured on your property or by your product. Something could go wrong with a service you provided resulting in damage or injury. Liability insurance will protect you in these situations and ensure that your company is not required to pay out of pocket for these types of liability claims.

Commercial Auto

If your company owns vehicles in order to provide services or deliveries, then you need business auto insurance. Commercial vehicle insurance can cover your drivers and your vehicles in the event of an accident. If your company uses vehicles, then you will no doubt have invested a good deal of money into those vehicles. This will protect that investment.

Umbrella Insurance

Commercial umbrella insurance policies help small business cover all their bases in one simple policy. Umbrella policies provide high limits of liabilty over your general liability and business auto policies. To learn more about small businesses, contact our friendly staff at Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance serving Portland, ME at 207-799-5541. We offer a choice of Maine’s best business insurance companies, so we can help you find the best value. We’re independent and committed to you.

Maine Food Truck Insurance

Food trucks have roamed the streets of Portland Maine for several years.  Now they’re popping up in places from Biddeford Saco to Westbrook, Scarborough to Freeport, Sugarloaf to Sunday River. Food truck insurance can be a challenge for an inexperienced insurance agent. Insurance companies know how to insure trucks. They know how to insure restaurants. But rolling restaurants are different.

5 Types of Insurance Every Food Truck Needs

  • General Liability  Insurance

    If someone breaks a tooth in a crabmeat roll or gets food poisoning after eating your product, they’re going to come back to you. GL coverage pays for these claims, as well as slips and falls and other injuries or damage that occur at your location.

  • Business Auto Insurance

    If you get in an accident while you’re on the move, you need to have your food truck fixed and back online soon. If you’re at fault, you’ll also need protection to pay for the damage and injury you cause.

  • Workers Compensation Insurance

    By law, you’re required to provide Maine workers comp coverage for your employees. If they’re injured at work or miss time due to an on-the-job injury or illness, workers compensation insurance pays them.

  • Business Property Insurance

    You have a big investment in your inventory, fixtures and supplies, both at the commissary and on your food truck. Insurance can protect that asset against fire, theft, equipment breakdown and more.

  • Loss Of Food Truck Income

    If your food truck is down, you have no income.  What if your fryer malfunctions, causing a fire? You could be off the road for the whole summer season. Or what if your best brewery location or outdoor venue suddenly shuts down due to a fire, windstorm or some other disaster? Business income insurance for food trucks can help you replace the income you lose following property losses like these.

Get Maine Food Truck Insurance

If you have questions about insuring a food truck in Maine, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen insurancce agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541, or click “get a quote” above. We’ve insured food trucks since they first came to Maine. We offer a choice of Maine’s preferred insurance companies, including the Acadia Street Eats food truck program by Acadia Insurance. We’ll help you find an insurance solution that fits your business and your budget. We’re independent and committed to you.

Commercial Insurance for Maine Small Business

Maine small businesses face many of the same hazards as their larger counterparts. They are also unique, and as such, they have unique insurance needs. For businesses in the Portland, South Portland and Scarborough, ME area, the agents with Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance can help you to find the right insurance policy to protect their unique operations.

Maine small businesses are not legally required to carry property or liability insurance. If your business has employees, you must carry Workers Compensation insurance, though. Smart business owners know that insurance is a cost-effective way to protect their investment in property such as inventory, fixtures and equipment. They also know that business liability insurance will protect them from lawsuits alleging negligence that causes injury or property damage.

Many business contracts require proof of insurance. These include rental agreements and leases, equipment leases, and independent contractor agreements.  A Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent can help you determine what kind of insurance you need and how much. They’ll help work within your budget so you don’t buy too much – or too little – insurance. For those in the Greater Portland, ME area, Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance offers the choice of several of Maine’s preferred insurers. We’re independent and committed to you. Call us at 207-799-5541.