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improving yourself insurance professional

Agents and the New Year Hustle

As you pushed yourself away from the Thanksgiving dinner table, did you wince when thinking that just a month later it would be very close to the end of 2017 or did you smile?  Now that 2018 has arrived, do you have a game-plan ready?

Over the past year, did you find ways to improve yourself as an insurance professional?  If the year was just a blur, here are some suggestions to contemplate embracing for the New Year.

  1. Prepare all year-end documentation for tax filing. It will be due before you know it!
  2. Organize all client files – making sure that your documents are in chronological order.
  3. While reviewing files, put those aside that are due for a letter giving them a brief description of the insurance you placed. For example, if you wrote Long Term Care Insurance, contact the insurer for current values of their benefits and share that news with your clients.  Often times, clients are very pleased with how their inflation protection has grown their benefits. Hopefully, you included inflation protection on every sale and if your client opted not to have it, you carefully pointed out the reasons why that would not be a good choice and had them sign off on their decision. Make sure this and any similar documentation are part of your client files.
  4. Schedule phone calls to your clients, usually around a birthdate so that you can extend a greeting and also see if they have any questions.
  5. Make time to ask current clients for referrals and be sure to thank them and treat each referral like gold.
  6. Educate yourself fully on your companies’ new product offerings. Do not sell what you do not know.
  7. Makes sure that you are working toward fulfilling your Continuing Education requirements and don’t let that effort wait until the last minute.
  8. Check your current E&O Insurance and mark your calendar so that you can be certain it is renewed and you avoid any gaps in coverage. Gaps in your E&O coverage will have you  losing coverage for any professional services you rendered in the past… and, loss of prior acts coverage would have you funding your own defense in the event of an E&O claim.
  9. Perhaps it would be smart to work toward an industry recognized designation that reflects your commitment to continued learning.
  10. Volunteer – find a way to give back to your community and support those in need.

By taking time to make sure you have updated your files and touched base with clients, you will be using a great E&O risk management tool that may very well work in preventing clients from becoming claimants.  Educating yourself is always time well spent and so much can be learned through on-line coursework.

Having a plan in place for the New Year will support your goals to accomplish more sales by setting out on clutter free path to continued success!

Don’t Let Your Clients Become Claimants

E&O Claim Case StudyOften times, you will be looked to for sound advice and asked to recommend an insurance solution for your clients. You should provide more than one product option and take the time to explain all ramifications, especially if your clients currently have insurance in place and are contemplating making a change or possibly surrendering a policy.  It certainly would be wise to provide something in writing regarding your discussions with clients and keep a copy for your file.

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How to Prepare for Your Errors & Omissions Insurance Renewal

October imageWhen it’s nearing your favorite time of year you’ll need to have a plan in place to be sure that your E&O Insurance is renewed in a timely manner.  You should set a pending in your calendar at least 30 days prior to the renewal date to be certain that you have received the proper information you need in order to renew.  You’ll want to be sure that you know who your E&O contact is.

Don’t be caught off-guard with having to pay the annual premium.  The premium expense can and should be part of your business’ budget plan.  Also, keep in mind that as the cost to defend E&O claims increases, at some point, you are likely to have an increase in your premium.  Allow for a cushion in your budget.

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Why Your Client File Notes Should Not Look Like A Grocery List

May picDocumentation is the most important key to your defense when your E&O carrier has their Claim Department or an assigned law firm handling an E&O claim.

What is your documentation process?  Do you have a routine process?  Are having meaningful file notes something you think you should have but don’t commit to practicing?

It’s very important to train yourself and your staff to routinely document every conversation that you have with your clients and prospects.  If you are not paperless, make a specific form that you use just for this purpose and give it a title; even consider using a different color paper so these notes are easily accessed.  If you are paperless, take the time to update your file notes so that your files tell a detailed story.

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Claims Made and Reported E&O Coverage

Manage Your RiskExperience has demonstrated there is a lot of confusion on the part of many producers and agents concerning the operation of their Claims Made and Reported Errors and Omissions coverage.   This confusion can be costly and allow the agent to become a victim of one or more potential pitfalls, which exist. We hope the following information will be helpful.

Key terms you should know:

Occurrence – An event or chain of events that ultimately causes a claim.   Example:   The sale of a policy

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Back to School – 10 Tips for Insurance Agents

insurance agent educationAugust means it is back to school time. And, going back to school is not just for kids!

Here are some good tips to keep in your professional backpack:

  1. Seek to continue your insurance education so that you can be at the top of your game. The insurance and legal systems are forever changing as well as the products and services provided by the insurance companies represented. It is important that as an insurance professional, you make every effort to know the current industry trends. This also serves as a good risk management procedure with respect to reducing potential Errors and Omissions claims.

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Long Term Care Insurance – Agent’s Rewards: Part 2

Big family with children have lunch outdoors. Parents with 3 kids and grandmother eat in the garden. Picnic for mother, father, baby boy, toddler girl and teenager child. Generations and retirement.

While most agree that trying to sell a Long Term Care Insurance Policy can be very time consuming and disappointing, knowing that someone is able to preserve assets and avoid family stress because they have Long Term Care Insurance, is certainly very rewarding.

A daughter, that cared for her aging and widowed Mother while trying to raise an infant and care for 3 other children, made up her mind that she was never going to have her grown children in that situation. Although she tried to secure Long Term Care Insurance for herself and her husband, her husband did not qualify due to health reasons. She knew that she was probably going to have to use their savings to care for her dear husband and did not want to see their savings further depleted if she needed long term care. She proceeded to purchase a policy.

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Why Agents May Dislike Selling Long Term Care Insurance: Part 1

Long term planningLet’s face it; Long Term Care Insurance can be a very difficult product to sell.  In this 2-part blog series, you’ll read about the difficulties as well as the rewards when selling Long Term Care Insurance.

Several insurance companies that used to offer this product stopped doing so due to the amount of claims they received and the insufficient rates used in respect to expected future claims.   Those that remained in the marketplace, or later entered, have trimmed policy benefits and increased premiums. Hybrid policies were also introduced.

Many prospects believe that Medicare is going to cover all of their long term care needs while others choose to live in denial.  A good insurance agent will take the time to educate any prospective clients so that they know how unlikely it is that they will receive any facility or home care under Medicare, unless it is skilled care – care that helps them recover.

There comes a point in the aging process where there is nothing to recover from as the body is just wearing out and there is no control over how fast that happens.  Those that live with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are often in decent health and, consequently, require years of care.  Prospective clients need to have these possibilities brought front and center by their agent.  Is their long term care plan a hospital bed in their child’s family room?

People that have worked most of their lives and own their homes often have a very hard time wrapping their head around the concept of paying quite a bit of their hard earned money in premiums, over a period of many years, for a policy that, in their minds, they will probably never use.  Yet, statistics state that after age 65 one out of every 2 people will need some form of long term care.

Agents that devote a lot of time to Long Term Care Insurance must strive to keep on top of the many changes in products that take place among the insurance companies still writing business and be prepared to handle questions about rate increases over the years.

Insurance agents know that they are required to carry E&O Insurance by the companies they represent. This E&O Insurance will defend them against lawsuits that may be made in the future, and will provide insurance for awarded damages and/or settlements.   Unfortunately, when it comes to Long Term Care Insurance, the people that make inquiries aren’t always prepared to apply.  Those that do complete an application, don’t always remember their complete medical history and underwriting can uncover some surprises that either warrant a higher premium or result in a declination.

The insurance agent that sells Long Term Care Insurance must make a commitment to product knowledge, Medicare changes and educating those that are willing to put their toe in the water.

The smoothest sales are to those that have actually experienced all of the trials and tribulations of having to care for someone, or know of someone that has outlived their assets and ended up on Medicaid.  These people are hungry for their insurance agent to educate them and are willing to consider various options to make a plan work within their budget.  They will only need to be re-educated when they receive an increase in their premium, which is why it is important that the agent always takes the time to explain that the premiums will likely increase often as the cost of care continues to soar.

A Look Through the E&O Lens | Part 3

E&O claim lawyerThis is the final installment in our 3-part blog series highlighting real-world E&O claims. These three examples illustrate the broad range of scenarios that can result in an E&O claim.

 

E&O Claim 3: A complaint was filed in court against an agent and two insurance companies. The policy in question was issued based on an application that was completed by the agent. The insured client died and the plaintiff contacted the life insurer to initiate a pay-out of benefits. According to the plaintiff, the life insurance company denied payment of benefits because the insured was treated for chronic kidney disease, and the insurer claimed this matter was not disclosed on the original application. The suit was submitted to E&O and that carrier appointed an attorney to defend the agent.

 

During the process of legal discovery, the agent’s lawyer learned that the agent completed a medical questionnaire in relation to the policy over the phone on a recorded line. The recording was used as evidence that the agent complied with all due diligence requirements.  Subsequently, the agent was removed as a defendant in the case. Legal fees were covered by the agent’s E&O policy.

 

Costs to retain an attorney and be defended can become exorbitant. The protection provided by your E&O policy gives you peace of mind in knowing that you need not fear bearing those costs yourself. This is one of the many benefits provided to you by this important coverage.

A Look Through the E&O Lens | Part 2

E&O claims

In this second installment of a 3-part blog series, we explore a scenario in which an agent is seemingly caught between a disabled client and the issuer of a life policy. This situation further illustrates the importance of the protection provided to you by your E & O coverage.

E & O Claim 2:  This claim was brought in relation to a total disability waiver of premium on a life policy. The agent sold the client a life policy in 1997. In 1999, the client purchased a disability insurance policy with the same insurance company.  In 2001, the client became disabled, filed a claim and began collecting disability benefits. At the time he purchased the life insurance policy, he was informed by the agent that if he ever became permanently disabled, then the life insurance issuing company would waive the premiums on his life policy. The agent received an acceptance of the disability claim but may not have filed the proper forms for the premium waiver with the issuer of the life policy. Subsequently, the life insurance company contacted the agent and advised him that he was responsible for paying the 8 years of back premiums which should have been waived.

The agent provided the letter from the issuer to his E & O provider. The E & O company communicated with the life insurance issuer and showed that the client paid the premiums directly to the issuer and that it was the issuer’s responsibility to return the premiums. Since both the disability and life policies were with the same company, a strong argument can be made that the disability insurance claim adjuster should have verified if any other policies were held by the client. The issuer of the life policy agreed and no payment from the E & O policy was made.

While this case had many moving parts and may not be typical for holders of life or disability policies, it is an excellent example of how details that have fallen through the cracks, on the part of either the agent or the policy issuer, can result in an E & O claim.

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