Figuring out how much liability coverage to buy isn’t easy, but it’s very important.

General liability covers an entity for bodily injury, property damage, personal and advertising injury, and medical payments to a third party because of negligence of the insured. So, adequately selecting the appropriate limits provides defense costs and indemnification to that third party, which will properly indemnify that claimant.

“As an organization, ask yourself, ‘If my limits are not enough to cover the injury, what happens?’” says Andrew Rowles, vice president at SeibertKeck Insurance Agency. “You hope the insurance company will offer a settlement at your policy limits or you might look at out-of-pocket costs.”

Smart Business spoke with Rowles about setting limits of liability.

How can business owners know what limits of liability to purchase?

First, review the limits that your vendors and customers have on their insurance requirements. Many businesses purchase a $1 million occurrence policy with a $2 million aggregate limit for the general liability policy. From there, adding an umbrella or excess policy provides additional limits over your original policies.

The question becomes how much is enough. It’s a balancing act between purchasing exuberant limits that exceed industry expectations or leaving your company on the short side and potentially exhausting policies. If policies are exhausted, you could be covering claims yourself.

More exposed industries will need to buy higher limits, such as manufacturers that produce products with the potential to impact many people or those who face class action potential.

The challenge for many startup companies is having enough capital to cover the cost of purchasing adequate limits. As a well-established company, it is important to look at the cost-benefit of adding additional umbrella limits. In addition, when looking at job contracts, it is critical to make sure your limits match those of the subcontractor or contract requirements.

How can you use benchmarking to help discover the best liability limits?

A benchmarking report is a tool, not an exact science. It takes into account many different factors, such as location, industry size, revenue, employees, etc., to compare companies in the same industry segment. Benchmarking an organization against its respective industry can provide a range of insurance program premiums, limits and retentions commonly used in the industry.

Having this important tool should allow business leaders the piece of mind that they are adequately insuring their company at a competitive cost. Also, in the event of a claim, it can justify the limits purchased if the claim should exceed that limit.

An informal way to benchmark is by attending trade associations or other industry events, so you can ask peers for their limits of liability. Networking is a great way to understand how liability limits are affecting others, before you have to deal with it.

What do marketplace trends like severability tell business owners?

The severity loss trend — the change in size of an individual loss over a period of time — is staggering. According to Chubb, in 1973, a moderate brain damage injury award was $1.24 million; today, that same award is closer to $5 million.

Chubb reports that in 2010 the median compensatory award in Ohio was $13,000, while nationally 12 percent of all jury awards are $1 million or more. In addition, 57 percent of the total awarded damage for commercial/industrial product liability verdicts is for the plaintiff; the remaining amount is for additional costs. These costs include the rise in mass litigation, the high cost of defending product suits, the need for many experts in complex situations or additional awarded damages. This means $1 million of coverage is not always enough to cover the actual injury. The costs associated with a claim are far greater than what most people perceive as ‘enough insurance.’

There’s no easy answer to finding the right liability limit. It may seem ridiculous for a small company to buy $25 million in limits, but what if it has a large automobile fleet? In the end, the most important tool is to have a proactive relationship with your agent. An experienced client advocate will responsibly inform a client on how to properly balance its limit of liability and dollars.

Andrew Rowles is vice president at SeibertKeck Insurance Agency. Reach him at (330) 867-3140 or

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Published in Akron/Canton

In recent years there has been an increase in the number of claims filed against employers arising out of employment practice disputes. Many claims have no legal basis, but employers are still forced to defend themselves — spending time and money.

“Businesses are more likely to have an employment practices claim than a property claim,” says Shelley White, assistant vice president at SeibertKeck. “There are over 100,000 charges filed annually against employers under statutes imposed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The majority of these claims target smaller businesses. However, no business is exempt.”

Smart Business spoke with White about understanding employment practices liability coverage.

What’s important to know about employment practice claims?

Employment law has grown at an incredible pace since passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, among others. Ambiguities in these laws allow the widest possible interpretation, which in turn opens the door for litigation.

The most frequent types of claims made against an employer are discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful termination and retaliation. There’s also been an uptick in wage and hour lawsuits. Claims can come from potential hires, former and current employees, clients, suppliers or vendors.

Discrimination can be defined as the termination of an employee, demotion, refusal to hire or promote due to race, color, religion, age, sex, physical or mental disabilities or handicaps, pregnancy or national origin. Think about the times you or someone in the office told an off-color or racy joke to a new employee or client. It’s only a matter of time until this comes back as a claim.

The average claim costs an employer $50,000, and defense costs represent about two-thirds of the total settlement. Without a mechanism to transfer risk, these costs could cripple smaller businesses, or at least damage their reputation. For larger businesses, one uninsured claim can lead to potential shareholder lawsuits.

How does employment practices liability coverage mitigate this risk?

Businesses can purchase a policy that provides coverage for a wide spectrum of employment-related claims and offers risk management services to help minimize the risk of getting sued. This policy protects the corporation, directors and officers, employees (including leased and temporary), volunteers, and in some cases can be endorsed to include independent contractors (when working for the employer).

The definition of a claim includes arbitration, regulatory and administrative proceedings, and EEOC and Department of Labor investigations.

Limits can range from $500,000 up to $10 million or higher. As your business assets grow, so should your limits. Settlement costs and legal fees are typically included in the policy limits. However, some carriers will provide separate limits for these costs.

It’s important, however, to be aware of the varying contracts and differences in coverage and exclusions from one policy to another. There is no standard form. Sitting down with your trusted insurance adviser will help with this process.

Beyond buying insurance, what preventive measures lower claim risk?

Minimize the possibility of costly claims by:

  • Creating an employee handbook detailing company policies and procedures.

  • Educating employees on sexual harassment and discrimination, and offering sensitivity training.

  • Establishing a procedure for handling employee complaints.

  • Developing job descriptions with clear expectations of skills and performance.

  • Conducting periodic performance reviews.

  • Creating an effective record-keeping system to document employee issues, and what was done to resolve them.

  • Instituting at-will employment.

  • Implementing procedures for hiring, firing and disciplining employees.

Many carriers offer free risk management services. Online resources provide best practices training modules for addressing sexual harassment, discrimination, investigations and termination, while providing links to HR websites.

Shelley White is assistant vice president at SeibertKeck. Reach her at (330) 865-6582 or

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The number of absent workers regularly spikes between December and March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, last January marked a five-year high for the number of U.S. full-time workers taking sick days — an estimated 1.3 million stayed home and 3.3 million worked part time.

Although some of this is related to seasonal illnesses, what can you do this winter to make your workplace safer and cut down on the number of absences and injuries?

Smart Business spoke with Christine Hopkins, client advisor at TriCountry Insurance Agency, a member of the SeibertKeck group, about cold weather safety.

How can you decrease wintertime injuries to employees and customers?

Encourage employees to wear snow appropriate shoes, including rubber soles and boots. Those wearing dress shoes and high heels have a notably higher chance of injury in snowy, icy and wet conditions.

Keep all walkways, sidewalks and parking lots shoveled and clear of ice and snow with regular salting and shoveling. According to the Worker’s Compensation Fund, almost 80 percent of slips and falls due to snow and ice occur in parking lots and on sidewalks, with more than 50 percent occurring between 6 a.m. and noon. Snow removal must be done properly and promptly. A local snow removal business can be contracted for the winter months to keep walkways safe.

Customer safety should continue inside. Be sure floor mats and runners are at all entrances to absorb excess snow, water and salt. This prevents puddles or a build-up of salt, which cause slips, trips and falls.

What about employees who work outside?

When the snow falls and the temperature dips, it’s important to keep warm and stay dry, especially for any workers who are outdoors for any amount of time.

Recognize that working conditions have increased danger with the extreme temperatures, wet conditions and windy locations. Any signs of uncontrolled shivering, clumsy movements, disorientation, fatigue, slurred speech and/or confused behavior require immediate medical attention. Frostbite and hypothermia are serious conditions. Teach employees the signs, so at first indication the person can be brought to safety.

Other tips are:

  • Proper attire for cold weather is a hat, gloves, scarf, several layers and a warm coat.

  • Schedule work for the warmest part of the day.

  • Work in pairs so one worker can recognize danger signs his or her partner displays.

  • Drink warm beverages and avoid highly caffeinated and alcoholic drinks.

How can employers winterize vehicles?

When severe weather hits, it’s important to only drive when necessary. More than 50 percent of winter storm deaths are auto-related. If you or your employees must drive, do so when it is lightest out and always inform someone of the schedule, route and destination. Have all employees program emergency numbers and contact information into their phones.

Maintain full levels of fluids in vehicles at all times. Stock vehicles with a cold-weather kit containing a blanket, extra gloves, hat, sweatshirt, bottled water, first-aid kit, flashlight, snack and phone charger, as well as a folding shovel and a bag of salt or sand.

In the event of an accident, remind employees to stay calm, stop safely, turn on emergency lights and watch for oncoming traffic. Then, notify police and call an ambulance if required; be sure to always cooperate with authorities and police. Employees should take photos if it is safe to do so, exchange information with the other driver, and write a complete description of the accident while it is fresh in their mind.

You or your employees shouldn’t discuss accident details with anyone other than the police and your insurance company. Never agree to a phone recording or to give a signed statement to another driver’s insurance company without consulting your agent first. Never allow vehicles to be towed to an unfamiliar repair shop or authorize repairs by signing a tow release unless you’ve decided to have the vehicle repaired by the shop to which it is being towed.

Taking precautions early, and knowing the danger signs help prevent injury and loss.

Christine Hopkins is a client advisor at TriCounty Insurance Agency, a member of the SeibertKeck group. Reach her at (330) 336-3564 or

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Here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus Lane. He’s got a bag that’s filled with toys, but does he have coverage for those he employs?

The North Pole is very dynamic — Santa Claus has a personal home, reindeer, a toy factory and a sleigh for business use. Like many business owners, he needs to look at a variety of insurance coverages for all aspects of his life.

Because of the animal exposure from the reindeer, the Clauses need to put their residence on a farm policy, or a home policy with an endorsement that extends to the barn and animals.

A business policy would insure the toy factory, while the sleigh would be added to the business auto policy. Any additional drivers also need to be taken into account. If Mrs. Claus or any elves want to drive the sleigh, they would need their driving records checked first, and, if acceptable, added to the policy.

Santa’s agent may strongly recommend umbrella insurance, which are additional liability limits that extend over the home or business limits. In the unlikely event that Santa is sued, the lawsuit could extend from Santa to jeopardize the toy factory and any related businesses. An umbrella provides an extra layer of liability protection in the event of a loss or lawsuit.

Smart Business spoke with Craig Hassinger, president of SeibertKeck, about how Santa Claus can stay safe this holiday season with the proper insurance coverage.

How should the toy factory be covered?

Santa’s toy factory is a unique risk. Because 100 percent of its inventory is scheduled for delivery on one night, he needs peak season insurance. Peak season insurance automatically provides you with a specified percentage increase in insurance coverage during peak inventory periods when you insure your inventory for its average monthly value. We all know that although the elves have 12 months to make the toys, they really pick up the pace in November and December, significantly increasing the number of toys stored at the factory. Having peak season insurance allows Santa to increase the coverage for the toys for a couple of months while inventory is at its highest.

Santa also should talk to his agent to make sure his business policy has equipment breakdown coverage, in case any of the toy-making machines were to break, and business interruption coverage, which would help Santa if there was a covered loss and he was unable to work in the factory.

What are some additional coverages Santa may need?

An important coverage for Santa as he delivers all the gifts would be cargo coverage. Cargo coverage provides insurance for the goods, in this case gifts as they are in transit on the sleigh, until delivery. For Santa this could include any gifts that fall from the sleigh, are delivered to the wrong child or damaged en route.

Since Santa and his elves make all the toys at the North Pole, another coverage Santa should get is products liability. Products liability coverage is necessary because the manufacturer or maker of the products is held responsible for the injuries those products cause. If a toy were faulty or incorrectly made by an elf, Santa’s factory would be liable if any injury occurred to a child.

Any other tips for Santa — or other insurees — as the year winds down?

Take the time to:

  • Put multiple insurance policies with the same carrier. This can be beneficial in the event of a claim and save on premiums.

  • Review your personal and business insurance with your agent annually.

  • Contact your agent two to three months before your busy season. They will review your risk, make sure coverage is in place and allow you to focus on your business when the rush hits.

It’s critical to have a trusted insurance agent who can advise you how to best bundle your insurance for convenience and premium savings, without sacrificing necessary coverage, to have a happy holiday season and successful year following.

Craig Hassinger is president of SeibertKeck. Reach him at (330) 867-3140 or

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Not all high net worth individuals started out that way; they’ve spent years building a business and career, slowly accumulating assets and wealth. Even though they have more items to insure and face different risks, they often don’t adjust their personal insurance to reflect their changing needs.

“They are so busy building a business, they often don’t take the time to adjust their coverage as their needs and circumstances have changed,” says Kevin Franczkowski, a client advisor at SeibertKeck Insurance Agency, Inc.

Most of these people would never go without necessary coverages on their business, but there can be major inadequacies with their personal insurance, he says.

Smart Business spoke with Franczkowski about where high net worth individuals need more or different types of insurance coverage.

What is the biggest area that high net worth individuals underinsure?

The biggest concern is liability. While it is upsetting to lose an expensive piece of jewelry, it generally will not ruin someone financially; a liability claim, however, can. With inadequate liability and/or umbrella coverage, one incident can affect the total wealth and earnings of an individual and their family.

If the individual sits on non-profit boards, or is involved with charity work, he or she needs to consider increasing his or her limits and supplementing coverage with an umbrella policy. If a non-profit is sued, it is common to name all the individual board members in the suit as well. Without the proper coverage, you could be footing the defense or judgment bill yourself.

For example: A high net worth individual sat on a youth athletic league’s board of directors, and a former coach sued all board members for improper dismissal. Thankfully he had a personal umbrella policy that covered him for liability resulting from unpaid or voluntary positions and paid for his entire defense.

Auto accidents are a common source of claims and can result in financial pain if you and your estate are not adequately covered. For example: An individual has a $1 million umbrella policy over a $250,000 per person liability limit with his automobile policy. Unfortunately, he or she had an accident in which a child was severely injured. The child’s care will more than likely exceed $5 million within 15 years; his or her estate, business, and earnings will all be at risk to cover this situation.

What problems do you see with homeowner’s policies?

Homeowners policies come with limitations on certain items like fur, jewelry, fine arts and firearms. These provided limits are not usually adequate for high net worth individuals. As individuals gather wealth, they tend to gather expensive items that with a standard policy have a very limited amount of coverage. It is important to review these items with your insurance agent to be sure the items are properly and fully covered. Collectibles and rare or unique items often require a separate policy, known as an Inland Marine Policy.

Making sure the values on your homeowner’s policy are correct, and ensuring you use insurance products that are designed for higher risk, will be extremely important in the event of a claim.

How should household help be covered?

If household help, such as a gardener, nanny, cleaner etc., doesn’t come from an established company, you need to pay workers’ compensation. This will protect you in case they are injured in your home. If the employee comes through a service company, ask for proof of coverage with a workers’ compensation certificate. It is also important to inquire with the company about background checks for anyone coming to work in your home to make sure there’s compatibility, experience and no other issues. Your insurance agent can assist you with determining if the company’s coverage will extend to the employee, or if you need to purchase your own policy for them.

A good agent will do a risk management audit, asking what you’ve got to protect and walking you through the different items you have to ensure there’s adequate coverage. By spending time with a qualified high net worth agent, you’ll know your assets and income are properly insured.

Kevin Franczkowski is a client advisor at SeibertKeck Insurance Agency, Inc. Reach him at (330) 867-3140 or

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Published in Akron/Canton
Wednesday, 25 September 2013 09:31

SeibertKeck: Insurance marketing 101

Do you hire multiple agents for every renewal and shop for the lowest price? Do you spend countless hours each year reviewing the same business information with several agents? If you answered yes, you may be making simple insurance marketing mistakes.

“Business owners need to have a strategic plan for marketing insurance, part of the plan is a defined marketing and renewal process,” says Parker Berry II, CIC, executive vice president at SeibertKeck.

Smart Business spoke with Berry about common misperceptions regarding the insurance renewal process and how to make better use of your time and resources.

Why not purchase the policy with the lowest price?

Saving money may seem great, but it also could mean gaps in coverage. Every carrier’s policy differs in language and coverage offerings. The variables in the policy language and how the coverage is structured will greatly influence the cost of the policy. Sometimes the least costly policy has the right coverage, but not always.

Many times the least expensive policy has more constrictive language, including warranties that the insured must adhere to for coverage to respond in the event of a claim, such as having certificates of insurance for all subcontractors or that claims notifications have to be made within a specific time period for coverage to be provided. There are a number of other examples where a policy may restrict coverage. These can be removed or adjusted, for a charge, which would vastly improve the claims experience.

Always review the policy to make sure it is complete before switching based on price.

Should you shop insurance companies every year?

In the long run, businesses that shop their insurance every year looking to beat down their cost of insurance are doing themselves a disservice. When an underwriter sees the same submission to quote a business, year after year, from multiple agents, the underwriter will become less interested in quoting it. They assume that if they do write the insurance, they have a great opportunity to lose it the following year because it will be marketed again. It is beneficial to build a relationship with your agent and carrier; this allows them to get to know your business and business practices and can assist at the time of a claim or renewal.

Should you have multiple agents quote your insurance?

You should not use more than two agents to quote your insurance at any one time. When you have three or more agents involved in the quoting process, the amount of time the business owner and staff has to commit to answering underwriting questions, allowing time for loss control visits, etc., becomes overwhelming. By limiting yourself to two agencies to quote your insurance the process should be more manageable and effective. It is helpful to have a market selection between the agents, this helps streamline the quote process.

How can you find a knowledgeable agent?

Industry associations sometimes endorse an agency because of their familiarity with the industry. Sometimes the agency has a program specific to that industry as well.

Also, reach out to people you trust, such as your industry peers or another service provider like your banker, attorney, accountant or payroll provider.

Can I keep my current carrier, but change agents?

Business owners may wish to do a request for services (RFS) to determine who they want to represent their insurance needs. An RFS does not involve the marketing of your insurance. It is a process where the business owner may learn of the services and capabilities of multiple insurance agencies. Upon completion, the business owner will make their choice of agency and assign the policies to them to review, adjust, market and service.

Avoiding common misconceptions of the insurance renewal process can greatly reduce time, costs, and stress spent and created at your annual insurance renewal. Being strategic about selecting your agent and quoting your insurance can help you build a strong insurance team around your business, ensure the correct coverage is in place and provide competitive marketplace pricing.

Parker Berry II, CIC is executive vice president at SeibertKeck. Reach him at (330) 867-3140 or

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Many small business owners only have a certain budget for insurance, so a strong relationship with an insurance agent who takes a proactive approach to mitigating risk and protecting their business is key. The cost of business insurance is not prohibitive, but replacing offices and not being able to work because of a loss can be.

“Remind yourself that having good coverage is one of the costs of doing business and part of your responsibility to yourself, your business and others who depend on you,” says Tim Able, a client advisor at SeibertKeck Insurance Agency.

Smart Business spoke with Able about what small business owners need to understand about their insurance coverage and risks.

What are the most important insurance coverages for small businesses?

Every business, even if it’s home-based, needs to have liability insurance. This provides both defense and damages if you, your employees, your products or services cause or are alleged to have caused bodily injury or property damage to a third party.

If you own your building or have content, known as business personal property, including office equipment, computers, inventory or tools, you will need property insurance that will protect you if you have a fire, vandalism, theft, smoke damage, etc.

It is also important to include business interruption/loss of earnings insurance as part of the policy in order to protect your earnings in the event the business is unable to operate.

Lastly, with commercial auto insurance, you can insure your work vehicles from damage and collisions. If you do not have company vehicles, but employees drive their own cars on company business, you should have hired and non-owned auto liability to protect the company in case the employee does not have insurance or has inadequate coverage.

The top 10 insurance coverages are:

  • General liability insurance.
  • Property insurance.
  • Commercial auto insurance.
  • Workers’ compensation.
  • Professional liability.
  • Employment practices liability.
  • Directors and officers insurance.
  • Privacy and security coverage, also known as cyber liability.
  • Personal home and auto policy.
  • Umbrella coverage.

Where do some business owners fall short on essential protection?

A business may fall short in identifying risks when its risk management measures are reactive and not proactive. It’s important that a business aligns itself with an insurance agent who takes a proactive approach to mitigating your risk. Meeting with your agent on a quarterly or semi-annual basis will help to identify exposures that could potentially cost a business everything.

In addition, a proactive approach to minimizing risks in the workplace may help to lower your insurance premiums by preventing future claims.

How much does the size and type of business impact what insurance is necessary?

Risks increase substantially as a business grows, as more employees are hired and as more services are rendered or products sold. While a crossbow manufacturer will certainly have different needs and risks than a website designer, having the right protection is equally important.

Creating a new revenue channel, opening a new location or making any significant change to how your business normally runs should be reviewed with your insurance agent. Major changes like these can lead to gaps in your insurance coverage, leaving a business exposed.

Business owners put a lot of time and energy into growing their business and providing for employees and their families. That’s why it is so important they make sure their business is properly protected.

Tim Able is a client advisor at SeibertKeck Insurance Agency. Reach him at (330) 294-1363 or

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If your company has 500 employees or less, you want to be in a group rating program to get better workers’ compensation rates. However, some court rulings have decreased the amount of group credits and increased rates for group rated employers.

“It’s still the best thing going for the small to medium-size employer,” says Richard B. Hite, CEO at SeibertKeck Insurance Agency. “The group is a fantastic idea, and an employer can receive much lower workers’ compensation premiums.”

Smart Business spoke with Hite about the advantages of a group rating program and how the landscape has changed.

How does group rating save money?

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) allows employers with better than average claim histories to join together through a sponsoring organization for the purpose of being rated as a large group. As a standalone business with no losses, you might only develop an experience modification of a 5 to 7 percent credit off your rates. However, when combined with thousands of other companies in a group, your company can earn up to a 53 percent credit to your base rates. The credits can vary for individual businesses, depending on your type of business, whom you are grouped with, final loss figures, total enrollment and reported payroll.

What are other benefits of enrolling?

A third-party administrator (TPA) will manage your claims cost-effectively and aggressively, as well as representing you at Industrial Commission hearings for contested claims. You also have real-time access to claims information rather than trying to obtain it directly from the BWC.
The TPA physically reviews your rates and classifications assigned to your company. Many times the company classifications are wrong because of a change in operations or they were incorrect from the beginning. All of this can result in higher premiums.

The TPA also provides training, education, bulletins, seminars, newsletters, etc. It will help you receive various other credits for safety or a drug-free environment, too.

What happens if you have a large loss?

With a group rating, if you have a shock loss, a death claim or a large medical claim, you can be asked to leave at the end of the policy year. Typically that precludes you from any group for two or three years, as all groups look at your current year and the previous three years of claim history. After you’ve been relatively loss free for two or three years, many groups allow you to re-enroll.

The problem is you might have been enjoying 45 percent credit, but now have a 35 percent debit — an 80-percentage point rate swing. For a lot of small businesses, that creates a financial strain since premiums can double the next year. Extra dollars in premiums could result in a workforce reduction.

If asked to leave, you still can sign a contract with the TPA to help you limit and possibly prevent other losses with the goal of returning to a group plan.

How are recent court rulings impacting workers’ compensation?

Some recent rulings in favor of plaintiffs in Cuyahoga County have hurt the rating structure of group plans. The argument was that if Company A has a bad claims history and pays a $20 rate per hundred, but Company B is in a group rating paying $5 per hundred, that creates an unfair advantage in a public bid situation because of the lower workers’ compensation costs.

As a result, the BWC decreased the maximum group credit to 53 percent and raised classification rates as much as 21 percentage points versus nongroup rates. This action seeks to equalize the playing field, in the court’s opinion.

In addition, on May 3 the governor authorized the release of $1 billion of ‘overpaid premiums’ to private employers and public taxing groups for the 2011 rating year as a result of another court ruling. Employers are receiving rebate checks for 56 percent of premiums paid in 2011.

With the increase in rates for groups and the decrease in the credits, many companies have to decide whether to stay in the group. While it may no longer be as cost-effective, you get extra services — aggressive claims management, hearing representation, rate analysis, etc. — and service means everything to your experience and rates.

Richard B. Hite is CEO of SeibertKeck Insurance Agency. Reach him at (330) 865-6573 or

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According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the longer a worker is off, the less likely he or she is to return to work.

• After a six-month leave, there is only a 50 percent chance an employee will return to work.

• After a one-year leave, the chances drop to 25 percent.

• More than half of employees away from work more than 14 days experience financial difficulty.

A formalized return to work program is designed to help injured workers get back to work quickly and safely. Often, this will speed the employee’s recovery, avoid costly litigation and even improve employee relations.

“It’s beneficial because the employee wants to get back to work; they want to get healthy,” says Craig Hassinger, President of SeibertKeck. “Because you’re engaging them in the process, it helps with a positive mental attitude — they’re active, they’re involved and they’re getting better.”

Smart Business spoke with Hassinger — with assistance from Westfield Insurance — about how to set up and run your return to work program.

How does workers’ compensation affect insurance rates?

Rates are determined based on your loss experience. As your claims activity and the amount of claims paid increases, your premium rises. Although equally important, the payout probably has a bigger effect on overall rates.

That’s why return to work programs are so important because the quicker you can get people back to work, the less payout you’ll have. Back at work, they can do work that benefits the company and removes them from the workers’ compensation payroll.

How should an employer manage injuries right after they happen?

With early injury management, have a process for employees to immediately report when they get hurt. Communicating early reinforces the employer’s interest in the employee’s health and well-being.

Sometimes employees think they are doing you a favor by not telling you, or they don’t report a claim for fear of losing their jobs. Clearly lay out to employees that injuries happen, and you want to get them healthy again and learn from it so you can make improvements.

What role does the medical provider play?

The key is to communicate with physicians, ensuring they understand what kind of return to work program you’ve established. The medical provider can assist in identifying a position within the company that doesn’t hinder the employee’s recovery.

When should you make the return to work offer?

When possible, after physician approval, offer work to the injured employee. The offer should be in writing and describe the temporary work and conditions. It also should outline the expectations for employee and supervisor.

Once the employee is back at work, how should the case be managed?

A case manager should be assigned and work with the injured employee, physicians, your insurance carrier and management team. Typically the case manager is somebody in the human resources department or, depending on the size of company, anybody with a leadership role.

What’s the key to continually improving your return to work program?

As with any program, continually review successes and trends with all workers’ compensation claims. Adjust your return to work program and safety manuals to reduce future claims.

Your insurance broker can play a vital role in developing a return to work program or assisting to improve a current program. Look for a carrier with a strong risk management department.

If you rarely have workers’ compensation claims should you still have a return to work program?

Everybody should have some type of return to work program. In most cases, everybody is going to have a claim at some point.

Craig Hassinger is President of SeibertKeck. Reach him at (330) 867-3140 or

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