Hotels and Cyber Risk

Written By Charlotte Insurance on October 28, 2015. It has 0 comments.

In early 2015, the White Lodging Services Corporation, a franchisee of hotels including Marriott properties based in Indiana, reported a seven month long cyber breach. It’s every hotel owners worst nightmare. Following a malware issue they believed had been corrected, the point of sale systems for food and beverage locations at 10 properties were insecure and fell victim to a cyber breach. The names, credit card numbers, expiration dates, and security codes from credit card purchases were obtained in the breach. The company was not completely blind to the need for security measures. They believed they’d handled the malware issue in 2014 appropriately, by contracting with a third party security vendor. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to stop the data breach that affected countless guests and customers who had stayed on one of their properties. Hotels are at a greater risk of data breaches and other cyber-related attacks, which makes having the proper insurance coverage in place all that more important.


Thanks in part to a high dependency on electronic processes, computer networks, third party sites and vendors, as well as mobile transactions, the risk of having your hotel’s information stolen and your security breached is higher than you may think. With the amount of data collected from hotel customers, hackers and thieves almost can’t help themselves. For hotels, a data breach comes with a high cost:

  • Notifying everyone in your database – all past, current, and future guests who’ve had their information entered into your system
  • Providing potential victims with credit monitoring services for a specific period of time
  • Lawsuits
  • Loss of reputation and business

Precautions You Can Take to Protect Against Data Breaches There are plenty of things you can do to protect your hotel and your guests from a breach. Make sure data safeguards are in place with your internal systems. Know and understand the security procedures for any third party vendor you use and work with. Follow standard hiring practices to guard against internal problems from dishonest employees. No matter how much you protect your hotel, a data breach is still possible. Cyber liability coverage will protect you, your hotel, and your guests if (or when) data is stolen and your customers are put at risk. This coverage offers very specific protections that become costly in a breach:

  • Notifying customers
  • Credit monitoring
  • Forensics to find the cause and/or those responsible for the breach
  • Coverage against third party liability

These issues aren’t covered in a basic general liability policy. You’ll need to have an additional rider or policy to include coverage for data breaches and any other cyber liability. If you’re worried about the additional cost, try to imagine what it would cost to properly notify every single person who’s ever stayed at your hotel that their information may be compromised. Doesn’t seem so bad now, does it? Here at Charlotte Insurance, we want to see your business grow and thrive for many years. In order to do that, you must protect yourself from the very real risks of doing business, one of which is the threat of a data breach. When you’re ready to look at additional coverage for your hotel, or if you just have questions about your current coverage, contact us.

Independent Contractors and Workers Compensation

Written By Charlotte Insurance on October 26, 2015. It has 0 comments.

When your business is growing, it’s often necessary to bring on extra help to make sure that you don’t fall behind. The use of independent contractors can definitely help fill this need but it can come with some risk. How exactly will hiring independent contractors affect your workers compensation insurance policy?


Independent contractors are people that you hire to perform a job that are not employees of the company. There are very clear differences between an independent contractor and an employee. In order to legally call someone an independent contractor, strict guidelines must be met.

Independent contractors:

  • Do the same work for you as well as for other businesses
  • Use their own tools or equipment
  • Can hire and pay for help doing the job
  • Make profits or suffer losses
  • Set their own hours and work schedule

Now look at what an employee must or can do in comparison:

  • They have a continuing relationship with their employer.
  • They’re furnished tools by the employer as needed.
  • They must comply with an employer’s instructions on when, where, and how to work.
  • They are trained by their employer to do the job.

While it may be tempting to simply call your employees “independent contractors,” the cost of being caught with improperly classified employees is much greater than any savings you’ll see from lower workers compensation premiums.

The Savings and Costs of Working with Independent Contractors

The potential savings of working with more independent contractors is pretty appealing for many businesses.

  1. Lower workers compensation costs
  2. Lower state and federal taxes
  3. Lower costs for equipment, office space, and supplies
  4. Lower insurance and other benefits costs

The financial benefits are immediate and a big reason some companies use independent contractors. However, the risk of incorrectly classifying the people you hire, or even working with independent contractors who don’t carry their own workers compensation coverage, is bigger than you may realize.

Workers compensation isn’t simply a protection for your employees when they get hurt or sick on the job. While medical costs and lost wages are covered, you, as the business owner, are also protected from lawsuits. An independent contractor, however, can still sue you if they become hurt – with no limitations on the amount.

If you improperly classify employees as independent contractors in order lower your workers compensation insurance premiums, a few things can happen.

  • The IRS may audit you. If you’ve incorrectly labeled employees as “independent contractors” you will face tax fines and legal penalties.
  • You’ll have a gap in your insurance coverage. If someone is injured and sues, you’ll pay all of the costs associated with the lawsuit, you’ll pay fines and penalties for not carrying workers compensation coverage, and you’ll still have to purchase coverage and pay the premiums for a new policy.

Turning your employees into independent contractors may sound like a great idea, but don’t do it unless you’re truly prepared to treat those workers as independent contractors. If you have questions about your current workers compensation policy or if you’d like to discuss how you can lower your costs, contact us at Charlotte Insurance.

What’s the Difference Between Excess Liability and Umbrella Insurance?

Written By Charlotte Insurance on October 19, 2015. It has 0 comments.

As a business owner, you often hear horror stories of accidents, lawsuits, and large settlements being awarded. You shudder to think what something similar would cost you, especially knowing your liability insurance limits. You may even have heard of excess liability and umbrella insurance policies.

The two terms are often used interchangeably, and it’s easy to think that they’re one and the same.

What is the difference between an excess liability policy and an umbrella insurance policy, and why should you care?

It’s important to know that excess liability insurance and umbrella insurance policies can only be applied to three types of policies:

  • General liability
  • Employment liability
  • Commercial auto insurance


Although often confused with umbrella insurance due to some similarities, excess liability insurance is its own policy and has its own rules to follow.

  1. Excess liability provides coverage when one of the three liability policies reaches their limit.
  2. Excess liability can only be applied to one underlying liability policy at a time. In order to have excess liability for your general liability, employment liability, and commercial auto insurance, you would need to purchase three separate excess liability policies.

An example of how excess liability insurance works would be if your company was at fault in an auto accident. The overall cost, due in part to injuries and hospitalization, exceeds $3 million. Your commercial auto insurance policy limit is $2 million. The excess liability policy would cover that remaining $1 million. Without this policy, you would have to pay the difference out of pocket.


As mentioned before, there are enough similarities between umbrella policies and excess liability policies that the two are often confused. However, let’s look at how an umbrella policy works and the differences become clear.

  1. Umbrella insurance can be applied to multiple policies. No need to purchase more than one.
  2. Umbrella insurance can cover claims not included in existing liability policies.
  3. Like excess liability, umbrella insurance pays the difference when a policy reaches its limit.

A stark difference between the two is that an umbrella insurance policy requires a self-insured retention (SIR) in order to cover claims that aren’t covered by your liability policies. This is an amount you’ll pay before the insurance company will pay a claim. For example, if you have an umbrella policy with a $25,000 SIR and you make a claim for $200,000, you’ll have to pay $25,000 towards the claim and the umbrella insurance policy will cover the rest.

Every business has different needs, goals, and expenses. The decision between an umbrella policy and an excess liability policy is unique to the business. It’s a good idea to consider one or the other for added protection against accidents, lawsuits, and other unforeseen problems that can occur at any point.

If you’re unsure which type of policy would be best for you and your business, contact us today. We’re an independent insurance agency with no ties to any one provider. We can and will find the best policy for your business.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Y’amal.

Healthy Drivers are Happy Drivers

Written By Charlotte Insurance on October 16, 2015. It has 0 comments.

As the owner of a transportation business, you know that a good driver helps you build your business, and a bad driver costs you money, time, and reputation. You know that mistakes on the road don’t just cost money, they can cost lives, too.

Your drivers are your company’s biggest asset. Check out these tips to keep them happy, healthy, and alert while on the road – which is good for them and for you.


Healthy eating can go a long way to helping your drivers stay healthy, happy, and alert. They spend a lot of time on the road and the temptation to frequently eat fast food is real, but if they try a couple of these tips they’ll be healthier in no time.

  • Buy healthier pre-packaged foods to make meal preparation easier – things like cut up vegetables and fruit, bagged lettuce, baby carrots, etc
  • Eat smaller portions
  • Don’t skip breakfast
  • Choose healthy snacks – nuts, fruits, granola bars
  • Drink more water
  • Reduce sugar, soda, and excessive caffeine

Even small changes make a big difference!


Getting fit and healthy may be a little bit more difficult when your drivers are on the road, but it’s not impossible.

  • Take advantage of healthy living programs (As the owner, consider offering this as a benefit.)
  • Stretch frequently
  • Go for walks
  • Bike or run for a more strenuous workout
  • Do strength and resistance training – no equipment needed
  • Join a gym or the YMCA

Strength training and a bit of walking just a few days a week can make a big difference. Remind your drivers they don’t need to spend a lot of time exercising, either. Thirty minutes a day, four days a week is enough to see a difference and become healthier.


Sleepy drivers are dangerous drivers. More than 100,000 accidents a year are caused by tired commercial truck drivers, resulting in 1,800 deaths – usually the driver’s. Getting enough sleep is crucial to their safety and for those who share the road with them.

  • Go to sleep at about the same time each night.
  • Try to get at least six hours of sleep a night, eight hours would be better.
  • Use noise and light reducing items like ear plugs and eye masks to fall asleep.
  • Spend the money on a good pillow and mattress.
  • Don’t drink too much caffeine.

Changing their sleeping habits so that they’re rested is probably the most important thing that your drivers can do.


Maybe your drivers are in great physical shape and get plenty of sleep. Well, let’s not neglect their minds and hearts. You know it isn’t easy being on the road for days and weeks at a time. Encourage them to do a few things to keep them going when they get lonely or bored.

  • Stay in touch with friends and family at home.
  • Find a hobby – a portable one that can come on the road with them.
  • Listen to audio books – fiction or educational.

Whatever your drivers can do to improve their health will definitely help them be happier and more alert on the road. As the business owner, you’re not entirely off the hook, either. There are things that you can do to foster a healthier lifestyle for your employees – like having a great group health insurance policy in place so that they’re always able to get the medical attention that they need, when they need it.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Tricia.

12 Things Millennials Need to Know Before they Buy their First Home

Written By Charlotte Insurance on October 13, 2015. It has 0 comments.

Buying your first home is a big step and requires a lot of thought, patience, planning, and a need to work with professionals who understand the process. Unless you’ve got enough cash stashed away to pay for the house in full, it’s not as simple as walking up to a house you like and making an offer.


  1. Work with a professional. Legally, a real estate agent must be licensed in order to help you with the process. Go a step further and work with a Realtor, someone who belongs to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and subscribes to a strict code of ethics and professionalism.
  2. Check your credit to get an idea of whether you can get a mortgage or not. You may have to take some time to improve your score before you start a serious house search.
  3. Get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start looking. This tells sellers you’re serious and that you’re likely to be approved for financing.
  4. Realize you don’t have to save for a 20% down payment. Many lenders can offer mortgages with as little as 3.5% down.
  5. Think about what you can really afford. You may be pre-approved for the house of your dreams, but spending less may be better for your budget and your long term financial security.
  6. Don’t fall in love with the first house you see, and don’t imagine yourself in a home until you have an accepted contract and a firm close date. Until then, anything can happen.Deals fall through all the time.
  7. Be prepared to see lots of homes and make several offers. Depending on your market, you may be one of a dozen people vying for the same home, or you may have an overwhelming number of homes to choose from.
  8. Consider your lifestyle when choosing neighborhoods. Do you need to be close to work? Are walkability and access to mass transit important? What about the school systems?
  9. Order the home inspection once you find a house you want. Make sure you know about any major problems before you get to the closing table.
  10. Think about how much work you really want to do as a homeowner. If you hate the thought of mowing a lawn or making repairs to a roof or other parts of the home, consider different types of homes like a condo or townhouse.
  11. Work with a reliable insurance agent to find the right homeowner’s insurance policy. An independent agency works with multiple providers, giving you plenty of options.
  12. Don’t change jobs or take on any new debt until after you close. If not, you could stop or delay everything while your mortgage company starts the approval process all over again.

There are plenty of things to know and do when you’re buying your first home. Getting yourself prepared is just a part of the process. Once you find the perfect home, make sure you think about protecting that home with a good insurance policy.

We’ve been helping homeowners throughout Charlotte and the surrounding areas protect their homes since 1992. When you’re ready to buy your first home, give us a call so that we can make sure that you’re covered, too. Not quite ready to buy a home? We also offer renters insurance policies, which offer some very affordable peace of mind for those who are renting.

Why some Homeowners may need Workers Compensation Insurance Policies

Written By Charlotte Insurance on October 8, 2015. It has 0 comments.

For many homeowners a basic home insurance policyflood insurance policy, and perhaps an umbrella policy are all the protection they need for their homes to protect against natural disasters, theft, and damage. But for high value clients who possess heirlooms, antiques, and other fine valuables, you understand that the basic insurance policies are not always enough.

Did you realize, though, that you may be missing a valuable insurance policy for the domestic workers you hire to work in your home?

If you hire domestic employees such as nannies, maids, and other staff that work in your home, you may need a workers compensation insurance policy.


Workers compensation insurance is a policy that pays the medical expenses and lost wages for employees who become ill or injured while on the job. In the rare case that an employee dies, the policy will also pay death benefits to the surviving family. Workers compensation also protects employers when an injured employee wants to sue.

In all states, workers compensation is required for most employers. Domestic workers may be excluded in some states. Because of the protection it provides, this coverage may be a good idea even if it’s not required. An employee who knows they’ll be taken care of if they’re hurt often has higher morale and more loyalty to an employer – not to mention the added layer of protection that it offers you and your family.


Simply hiring one domestic worker to complete a job for you doesn’t automatically mean that you need to purchase a workers compensation policy. Consider how you hired the worker and what they’ll do for you to determine whether you need a policy.

Hiring from an agency: If you use a specific service to send in workers as needed, they may work directly for that company. In those instances, that company may be on the hook for the workers compensation insurance. Make sure to ask the company if you’re unsure of the relationship.

Hiring a company: When you hire a company to provide workers, and those workers vary from day to day, they’re not your employees. Those workers are providing a service on behalf of the company that you hired. In these instances, you’re not responsible for workers compensation insurance.

Hiring an employee: When you hire an individual who works directly for you, and you dictate their schedule, uniform, tasks, and other details of the job, they are your employee. You may need workers compensation insurance.

Hiring an independent contractor: If the person you hire is allowed to set their own schedule, determine how they will complete their daily tasks, and use their own equipment, they may be an independent contractor. If that’s the case, you don’t need workers compensation insurance.

When you bring in a new domestic worker, it’s best to check with your insurance agent to make sure that you don’t need any additional protection or coverage, including workers compensation insurance. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when someone new comes into your home.

At Charlotte Insurance, we want to help you protect your home, your family, and those you hire. If you have questions about your current domestic workers or if you’re considering hiring someone, give us a call and let’s go over your policies to make sure you have adequate coverage.

Image courtesy of Flickr user r. nial bradshaw.