COVID-19: Reporting Work Comp Payroll During Furlough

In this difficult time business owners have been forced to make many challenging decisions, such as furloughing their employees.  This information is for those that have decided to continue to pay their employees out of their own pockets during this National Emergency.

The Wisconsin Compensation Rating Bureau (WCRB) has made a decision on how furlough pay will be reported by business owners:

Rule V – Premium Basis – H. Wages For Time Not Worked Wages paid to employees who have been furloughed during the time period where a state-wide emergency order issued by a public official, whether or not the employer is exempted from the emergency order, shall be reported at audit under stat code 0012 – Paid Furloughed Workers During A Governmental Emergency Order Impacting Employment. The payroll during the furloughed period is not assigned to a classification code and no premium is calculated. If an employee is requested to perform any duties for their employer during this time period, they are not deemed furloughed while the task is being completed. If the employee is not deemed furloughed, the payroll will be assigned to the classification applicable to the work usually performed. Payroll records must clearly reflect the division of payroll between pre and post emergency declaration.

It is important to keep detailed records on “pre and post emergency activity” as well as duties performed during furlough.  I recommend beginning this documentation process immediately so you are not scrambling when it’s audit time and unable to remember who was performing duties and when.

Ryan Burns is a Commercial Account Executive with Baer Insurance Services. He specializes in construction and manufacturing. Ryan is a former contractor who takes pride in truly understanding his clients industry.

608.830.5833 |

Drug Testing Policies and Work Comp: How They Affect Each Other

Consider the following scenario. You have had an employee injured on a job site and your HR policy indicates that you need to have that employee drug tested. You think nothing of it because it’s standard practice, however, what if the employee fails the drug test? Your HR policy states that there are now grounds for termination. In compliance with your stated policies, you fire the injured employee. But have you thought about how the Workers Compensation responds?

This is a very challenging topic that many employers have been faced with, and a topic I have recently helped one of my clients navigate. Business owners are stuck trying to decide how this might affect their MOD (experience modifier – used to calculate your workers’ compensation premium) and what considerations can be given toward their HR policy on drug testing.

An employer might feel cheated by the system since they are “doing the right thing” according to their own HR policy. The issue that is created is that the injured employee will continue to receive indemnity or lost time payments even though they have been terminated.  That means that the employer is now on the hook for the entire loss, including all the medical bills. And the employer has now lost out on the savings that can be realized from getting an employee back to work. The indemnity payments will continue until the employee is released to “full duty” which is determined by a treating physician, whether an employee is fired or not.

The employer can now expect that they will see a bump in their MOD leading to an increased work comp premium.  Leaving them only to wonder what would have happened if they had tried to have the employee return to work, even in a minimal capacity. It could have saved thousands of dollars!  Under these specific circumstances employers may reconsider their policies on whether it is best to terminate their employees in this situation. This is when the employer needs to weigh the cost. An argument can made that keeping an employee on who is under the influence may cause the company a greater financial loss over time. Do keep in mind, it takes three years after the MOD jumps up to drive it back down, so it does create a very difficult decision.

I am not suggesting employers should immediately change their drug testing policy, only that it is very important to understand how indemnity works and how this affects their MOD.  Claims departments are not always transparent about how claims are settled.  It is crucial as a business owner to know how these claims work and the impact it can have on your line. If you have not had a discussion about Return to Work Programs and closely reviewed a Mod Master, give me a call!


Ryan Burns is a Commercial Account Executive with Baer Insurance Services. He specializes in construction and manufacturing. Ryan is a former contractor who takes pride in truly understanding his clients industry. | 608.830.5833


This blog is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of insurance topics, not to provide specific legal advice. As always, you should always consult with your attorney regarding employment related matters.

Design-Build Liability, I’m covered right?

We are often asked about the need for professional liability coverage when we’re conducting our business assessment with general contractors and design-build firms. Our answer usually surprises even the most sophisticated firms. Though design services may or may not be specifically excluded in General Liability (GL) policies, the amount of coverage and support offered is very limited at best. These limitations create a coverage gap for firms that are involved in project design because of the specific damages they are designed to cover; bodily injury or property damage.

Contractors involved in design should exercise extra attention with their insurance and risk management programs because most liability claims against design professional services involve passive economic damages. These damages can include delays in completion of projects, issues with the structure not adequately meeting performance needs, or additional costs associated with finding more suitable space. For schools, multi-family projects, large office or industrial complexes these types of claims can easily reach into six figures in passive damages: the exact type of damages that aren’t covered under a GL policy. If a project is impacted by a design issue but no one is injured or no property is damaged, a GL policy likely won’t provide much relief.

Unfortunately that’s not the only challenge we encounter when working with design-build firms. Another problem we frequently discuss occurs because the policies that exist to cover the above mentioned types of passive losses are written on a claims-made form. A claims-made form offers coverage only if a claim is made while the policy is active. That prompts the question: what happens if the design firm or entity that was created for this project no longer exists? Many times the answer is the contractor that holds the master contract is left on the hook for damages without coverage on their GL.

The general liability and workers compensation coverage get most of the attention from general contractors and for good reason. However, if a general contractor is involved in any of the design work, whether directly or by subbing out design services, it’s important to address the gap in coverage through a professional liability policy.

At Baer we specialize in working with both design firms and general contractors. Due to this specialization we have the knowledge and tools to evaluate a company holistically when it is involved in both the contracting and the design side of a project. Through our assessment process we work with firms to construct an insurance program that provides the multiple levels of protection that a diverse company needs.

Matt Steiner is a Commercial Account Executive with Baer Insurance Services. He specializes in professional liability coverage with a focus on design firms, tech and life science. He works with firms to improve their risk management and insurance practices. | 608.830.5819

OSHA 300 New Deadline! Are you ready?

March 2nd is the new deadline to electronically report your OSHA 300A (summary of work related injury and illness) for 2018 data.  If you are currently tracking this information with OSHA 300, this will be a brand new means and deadline for reporting. According to OSHA’s website, certain high-risk industries are required to report by this date.  It is in your best interest to be proactive and see if your company is included in that, and not rely on OSHA to notify you.

If you are not sure if you need to file, these requirement guidelines may be helpful:

  • Less than 10 employees are exempt.
  • Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain high-risk industries must submit information from their 2018 Form 300A by March 2, 2019.  Check link to see if you are an industry that is required to report.
  • Required establishments with 250 or more employees are also required to submit the 300A digitally.

If you need to file electronically- follow this link to the ITA portal.  It only takes about 10 minutes to set up your account and another 10 minutes to report.

It is important to understand that the final rule is asking for only the 300A to be reported electronically.  The 300 and the 301 should be documented as usual and kept in your business but are not required to be reported through the ITA portal.  OSHA always likes to see the documentation at your business and will ask for it if you have a visit.  With the new reporting date I have been told by OSHA that they will ask you and may already have record if you have not electronically reported the 300A by the March 2nd deadline and that could result in a citation.

Please remember that the 300A will also need to be posted as usual in a conspicuous location within your business from February 1st-April 30th.

It is a proven fact that documentation and attention to detail go a long way if you have an OSHA compliance officer in your business.  You can bet they will be detailed in their investigation and keeping up with changes like this show that you are detailed as well.  If you would like more information on this topic or have any questions please feel free to reach out.



Ryan Burns is a Commercial Account Executive with Baer Insurance Services. He specializes in construction and manufacturing. Ryan is a former contractor who takes pride in truly understanding his clients industry. | 608.830.5833

What is your “Why”?

Insurance policies and risk management strategies are traditionally slow to change, is your insurance provider helping you to get ahead of the curve?

In my last blog I addressed some of the issues we see in the commercial insurance industry that negatively impact businesses and their employees. Though each business we work with has unique needs, we have been told by our clients that the education and enlightenment we provide is worth the time they spend with us. Our clients choose Baer because we help them define a risk management strategy, provide the tools and encouragement they need to take action, and most of all help hold them accountable to executing that strategy. They renew with us and refer us because of the positive impact we have made helping them to improve their businesses and beat their competitors.

Today’s blog isn’t specifically about how we help because until you experience the Baer difference those words won’t mean much. Simon Sinek tells us that “Why” we do things is the most important message to relay to clients and potential clients alike. I wanted to step back and talk a bit more about why we do what we do and specifically why I chose to focus my practice on the highly educated professionals in design and technology.

As the tech sector and design industry have seen incredible growth over the past decade, the insurance agents and carriers they work with haven’t been forced to keep up with the changes. All of the new opportunity meant there wasn’t a need to evolve or improve. I choose to challenge that thinking.

At Baer we prefer to work with professionals that take the time to understand, that don’t rely solely on hope as their risk management strategy and are committed to improving their businesses. Insurance isn’t a commodity and shouldn’t be treated as such. The businesses that choose to partner with us have made the decision that they are ready to evolve. They ask questions. They challenge ideas. They commit to improving their business practices. All of this because they want to be better for their employees, for their clients, for their families and for their communities. We are in business because the businesses we work with want to be their best and they believe that the team at Baer can help get them there.

My “Why” is simple, I like to help people succeed!

Matt Steiner is a Commercial Account Executive with Baer Insurance Services. He specializes in professional liability coverage with a focus on design firms, tech and life science. He works with firms to improve their risk management and insurance practices. | 608.830.5819

Surprise! OSHA is on your job site!

Did you know that OSHA personnel can visit your business or job site without any event or complaint? OSHA’s National Emphasis Programs (NEPs) exist to recognize and mitigate specific hazards and high hazard industries. If your business falls within an NEP, you could be next in line for a surprise visit. There is no phone call, email or letter informing you of this visit, a compliance officer will just show up at your business or job site.

Imagine starting your day by finding out that OSHA is on site. Are you prepared for that type of disruption? Being prepared for an NEP means knowing your rights and portraying your company in a positive light so that you can minimize civil penalties and business interruption.

There are three main components to an OSHA visit: an opening conference, a walk around the business or site, and a closing conference. Understanding this format will help you start things off right with the compliance officer. There are a few crucial things to remember, but first: slow down and take a deep breath. After that, use the opening conference to establish some ground rules with the OSHA personnel such as introducing them to the designated, prepared company escort for the walk around, and attempting to understand the purpose for their visit. Understanding why OSHA is there will help you decide which route you will take to make the walk around. Be sure to prepare your employees for employee interviews. All of the documentation in the world will do little to help if the compliance officer does not feel your employees are well trained.

An OSHA visit seems scary, but being prepared can help even the playing field and alleviate a little stress. Stay tuned for future posts about further details around this topic.




Ryan Burns is a Commercial Account Executive with Baer Insurance Services. He specializes in construction and manufacturing. Ryan is a former contractor who takes pride in truly understanding his clients industry. | 608.830.5833

Rethinking the Commercial Insurance Experience

The commercial insurance buying experience is a mess. For too long agents, and in turn clients, have been making decisions based on a flawed process. The buyer determines it’s time to “shop” their insurance. They reach out to their current representative and maybe 1 or 2 more agents, “Bring me quotes,” they say. The agents jump, collecting current insurance information, determining what companies to get quotes from and finding the best, “can’t be beat” pricing. Because we as insurance professionals are willing to engage in this manner, the buying decisions are made based on price and a few ancillary “throw-in” features or benefits.

Price and coverage are critical items to consider, I’m not making light of that. Unfortunately the coverage is often outdated and thus the pricing isn’t accurate compared to risks of the business today. This old philosophy of “price and features/benefits” results in missed opportunities to recognize changes in the buyer’s business. We don’t engage our prospect on why they have insurance, what they need out of their insurance partner, or how we can help them improve their business. Through strategic planning, an insurance agent should be able to impact top and bottom line, help improve employee engagement and morale, and ensure that risk management is part of the culture of each business.

At Baer Insurance we are challenging our clients to think differently about their insurance experience. As businesses evolve it’s critical to consider how they partner with insurance providers to improve their overall business. Our approach helps firms to not only improve their insurance portfolio but also identify solutions to business needs that may never manifest themselves in insurance policies, coverages, or additional premium.

Please be on the lookout for regular blog posts from members of the Baer Commercial and Benefits Team throughout 2019. We will post a couple times each month with information that can help you to improve your business and rethink how you work with your business partners.


Matt Steiner is a Commercial Account Executive with Baer Insurance Services. He specializes in professional liability coverage with a focus on design firms, tech and life science. He works with firms to improve their risk management and insurance practices. | 608.830.5819


Lightning and Summer Storms

Lightning storms are incredibly dangerous and more deadly than tornadoes, floods and hurricanes. When a storm is on the verge of striking your area, you need to know the steps to take in order to protect your family and home.

Use these tips to stay safe during a lightning storm:

  • Seek shelter in an enclosed building, if possible.
  • If you are in a car, stay inside and keep the windows securely rolled up.
  • Do not use a small shed, pavilion or lean-to as shelter—they do not provide enough protection.
  • Do not use a landline telephone during a storm. Instead, use a cellular or cordless phone that is not connected to the building’s wiring.
  • If you’re outside during a lightning storm, get as close to the ground as possible without placing your hands or knees on the ground.
  • Avoid seeking shelter near trees, metal fences, pipes or tall and long objects.
  • If you are swimming, boating or fishing, seek shelter on land immediately.

If someone you know is struck by lightning, contact emergency personnel immediately. A lightning strike can cause the heart to stop and a person to stop breathing.

If you have the proper medical training, administer CPR to victims who do not have a pulse and treat conscious victims for burns, fractures and other wounds.

Quick Tips for Safe RV Usage

Recreational vehicles (RVs) can be a fun way to see the country and spend time with your family. However, because they’re bigger and heavier than an average car, there are additional hazards that come with owning and operating an RV.

Many RV accidents can be avoided by following these helpful tips:

  • Know the weight capacity of your RV.
  • Perform a complete pre-trip inspection. Check the tire pressure, tread depth, headlights, tail lights, turn signals, belts, oil levels, hitch and other towing equipment, and windshield wipers before leaving.
  • Know the height of your RV and pay close attention to overhangs and clearance heights.
  • Watch your speed, especially at night and during dusk.
  • Slow down on blind curve areas of the roadway.
  • Use your high beams at night to see animals and other obstructions.
  • Always wear a seat belt.

Is Gap Coverage Right for You?

Guaranteed asset protection, or gap insurance is an optional automobile coverage that helps you transfer the financial risk if you are involved in an auto accident and you owe more for your vehicle than the amount that it’s worth. This is referred to as being “upside-down.”

Since a new car’s value drops significantly the minute it’s driven off the lot, if you are involved in an accident that totals your vehicle in the first few years you own your vehicle, you may find yourself owing the finance company more than the vehicle’s actual value. Gap insurance provides for the “gap” between the two amounts.

Is Gap Insurance for Everyone?

New vehicle financing options: If you took advantage of a zero percent down payment deal or put a small amount of money down, or stretched the life of your loan past 3 years, gap insurance is most likely a good idea. That’s because the vehicle typically depreciates considerably faster than you have actually paid down the vehicle’s loan.

Used vehicles: Gap insurance is typically not available for used vehicles. To cover your risk, it’s wise to put down an ample down payment and finance the vehicle for the shortest possible timeframe.

Leased vehicles: For those who lease a vehicle, gap insurance is considered an essential coverage because typically there is no trade-in and little cash put down to lease the vehicle. Similar to purchasing a vehicle, if the car is a total loss, you will owe the difference between what you have paid and what you owe on the balance of the lease.

Cost versus benefit: Gap insurance is offered for a nominal fee, which makes it a great value for anyone who finances or leases a new car.

We’re Here to Help

Depending on your vehicle’s make, model and loan terms, we can help you determine if gap insurance is the right choice for you. If you’re purchasing a new vehicle, contact us to learn about how gap insurance can complement your auto policy coverage options and keep you from getting caught upside-down!

Flooding Found To Be The Biggest Risk to Cities Worldwide

Flooding is the biggest risk to city dwellers around the world, according to a study by Swiss Re Ltd.

The study, published on Sept. 18, 2013, ranks the human and economic exposure to natural catastrophes in 616 cities around the globe.

The study, “Mind the Risk: A Global Ranking of Cities Under Threat from Natural Disasters,” examined the risk that floods, storms, storm surges, earthquakes or tsunamis pose to urban centers.

On the basis of all five perils, the Tokyo-Yokohama region of Japan is the most exposed to loss of human life and working days, the study found.

Coastal cities in Asia are particularly vulnerable to all five perils, the study found.

Outside of Asia, Los Angeles is the ninth-ranked city globally and No. 1 in the United States in the number of people that could be affected by all five perils.

“Already today, major river floods alone have the potential to affect 380 million people living in cities; and some 280 million people could be impacted by severe earthquakes,” Matthias Weber, group chief underwriting officer at Swiss Re, said in a statement. “We need to better understand what makes cities more resilient and what decisions about investments and infrastructure are needed to minimize the loss of life, property and economic production.”

The global ranking of cities under threat can be found here.


Teens, Social Media and a Parent’s Liability

For many the high school experience comes with social pressures and obligations to fit in and belong, and sadly this can lead to exclusion and isolation of some students. At some point everyone probably said something in their teen years in the heat of the moment that they now wish could be taken back, but today’s teens face the added burden that if they convey those statements on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, their words could be around for a lot longer than just the heat of the moment.

In addition to hurt feelings, cyber bullying could potentially damage someone’s reputation. With college admissions offices and employers beginning to look up applicants on social networking sites, rumors and gossip have the very serious potential to damage someone’s ability to get into the college of their choice, or find a job. For parents, this could create a potentially serious exposure to a lawsuit if their children engage in cyber bullying.

Aren’t my kids covered under my insurance?

Generally speaking, any coverage a parent has through their homeowners or renters insurance policy also provides coverage to other residents of the household, including teenage children. Standard homeowners and renters policies include liability protection for bodily injury or property damage, which would pay for the costs to cover medical bills or repair/replacement costs if a child injured a friend in a pick-up basketball game or if they were at a friend’s house and accidentally spilled soda on a $13,000 oriental rug, subject to the policy’s deductible.

But what if a child were to post rumors about other teens online that implied negative information that could damage that person’s reputation? Interestingly, a standard homeowners or renters policy would not cover these instances.

What can be done?

In order to cover claims from that kind of situation, homeowners and renters policies must have what is called an endorsement- extra language that is inserted into the policy to expand coverage- in order to have liability protection extended to cover “personal injury”.

As insurance professionals we will be able to tell you if your current insurance policy already has this personal injury endorsement by reviewing it, and if it doesn’t, we would be able to help you get one. You may be surprised to find that this expanded coverage may not cost you much in additional premium. A personal injury endorsement will pay the costs up to the limits of your policy to defend you, pay a judgment or settle a case when legal action is brought against you or your children for defamation.

Make sure that if you’re a parent, you talk to your children about social media, how they use it and what’s expected of them regarding personal responsibility. It’s critical that they understand how their use of social media not only has the potential to hurt others, but that it could impact your family as well.

Some parents choose to actively monitor their children’s use of social media, and there are various software programs available to assist those who want to closely monitor what their children do in social spaces for parents who want access to their children’s profiles. No matter what you choose to do, begin with treating others with respect as the best way to avoid this type of risk.

Be Aware of What Your Kids Are Doing Online

  • Know the sites your kids visit and their online activities. Ask where they’re going, what they’re doing, and who they’re doing it with.
  • Tell your kids that as a responsible parent you may review their online communications if you think there is reason for concern. Installing parental control filtering software or monitoring programs are one option for monitoring your child’s online behavior, but do not rely solely on these tools.
  • Have a sense of what they do online and in texts. Learn about the sites they like. Try out the devices they use.
  • Ask for their passwords, but tell them you’ll only use them in case of emergency.
  • Ask to “friend” or “follow” your kids on social media sites or ask another trusted adult to do so.
  • Encourage your kids to tell you immediately if they, or someone they know, are being cyber bullied. Explain that you will not take away their computers or cell phones if they confide in you about a problem they are having.

Sources: |

Was Your Home Loan Sold? Quick, Call Your Insurance Agent!

Do you have a mortgage? Yes? Then at some point in your home-owning life, you have received a letter telling you that your mortgage has been sold to another lender. There’s certainly nothing unusual about it when this happens, as home loans are sold every day in the United States. It is a very common practice. Typically, the letter tells you that nothing will change for you and – "you do not need to do anything."

WRONG!!! – You should contact the insurance agent that handles your home insurance.

Here’s Why: If your home insurance is part of your escrow then your agent needs to know and needs to change the Mortgagee endorsement on your policy.

Every year your insurance company sends a bill to the company that owns your loan. Your lender sends a check from your escrow account to pay for your Homeowner’s insurance for the next year. If your insurance company does not have the correct lender information the bill will be sent to the wrong company and the bill will not be paid. Believe it or not – that is not the big problem.

Here is the BIG PROBLEM. Your new lender wants to know you have insurance that will pay to replace your home in case of a total loss – they want to know they will get their money! If your new lender does not get a bill or see some form of proof that you have insurance – then the lender will put insurance in place for you. And guess what? The insurance the bank puts in place can cost up to THREE TIMES MORE than what you are paying now and that is just for your house and wouldn’t include insurance for all your belongings inside your home.

If this occurs the lender is simply going to pass the high-cost of this other insurance along to the home owner in the form of a much higher mortgage payment on your next statement, which can cause unnecessary panic and confusion.

The lesson – keep your Insurance Agent updated on any change regarding not only your home, but your lender as well. Your agent wants to be up to date and will appreciate the call and it’s a simple change that only requires a few moments to complete.

Home Inspections Before Winter Weather Comes

This time of year can be just great here in Wisconsin. However, you won’t get much fireside snuggling done if your chimney clogs or your roof springs a leak. And while prepping your home for winter weather isn’t much fun, once you do it, your peace of mind can last all season long.

Here’s a handy checklist to make sure the weather stays outside where it ought to be.

Furnace Follies
If you have a forced-air furnace, visually inspect the outside of your system, the ducts, and other points attached to the unit. Repairing potential air leaks is easy to do with a little duct tape. It’s also a great time to clean or replace the filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you can reach them, vacuum off the blower blades while you’re in there.

Winter Weather Stripping
A common source of heat loss and drafty spaces is faulty door or window weather-stripping. Check for drafts by holding a lit candle a couple of inches from the seam. If the flame moves (and you’re sure it’s not the dog breathing over your shoulder) you could have a leak. Typically these are easier to replace entirely than “spot repairing” and kits for doing so may be found at any hardware store.

Chim Chim Cher-ee
Creosote is the black, scaly deposit left behind in wood-burning chimneys. It slows airflow and is an enormous fire hazard. While the chimney is cool, take a flashlight and look for build-up past the damper (at the mouth of the flue near the base of the chimney). If you burn a lot of wood during the season–or very resinous wood like pine–cleaning the chimney is an annual must-do. This is one repair where hiring qualified professionals is best because they have the proper tools and experience to make sure it’s done right.

Stormin’ the Doors
Operational storm doors and windows prevent additional drafts and save energy costs. Make sure the hinges are lubricated and adjusted so they close properly. If you have interchangeable glass panels, make sure to install them instead of leaving the screens over winter.

Rain Gutter Braining
Clean gutters help prevent many cold weather problems from arising, such as basement flooding, siding damage, and door and window leaks. Clean gutters also help keep your foundation dry and repair-free. Plus, if your gutters are holding too much water they can pull free of eaves and fall off at any time, posing a hazard to your noggin.

Show Your Best Siding
In some cases you’ll need to hire a professional to make siding (or paint) repairs, but you can easily inspect for cracks and separations, peeling paint, or other damage that’s not difficult to repair yourself. Usually, a little caulk and some paint do the trick. But don’t leave it to chance–or leave it too long–because when water gets behind siding it’s expensive to repair as well as a health hazard.

Put a Lid On It
If possible, check your roof close up. You can use binoculars to inspect safely from the ground. Look for missing tiles, cracked shingles, and “bald spots”. If you have a composition roof past its warranty, make sure to check for brittleness, a sure sign it needs replacing. Also, if you notice lots of asphalt granules in your newly spotless rain gutters, it’s a sign your roof is eroding and needs replacing soon. Lastly, make sure to check the flashing around the edges of the roof for damage.

Taking just a few minutes this time of year to inspect your home for these common cold weather entry points and it will prevent more costly repairs, reward you with a lower energy bill, and help you have a relaxing holiday season.

Cyber Security for your Small Business

High-profile cyber attacks on companies such as Sony and Zappos have generated national headlines and have raised awareness of the growing threat of cyber crime. Recent surveys conducted by the Small Business Authority, Symantec and the National Cyber Security Alliance suggest that many small business owners are still operating under a false sense of cyber security.

The statistics are grim: The vast majority of U.S. small businesses lack a formal Internet security policy for employees, and only about half have even rudimentary cyber-security measures in place. Furthermore, only about a quarter of small business owners have had an outside party test their computer systems to ensure they are hacker proof, and nearly 40 percent do not have their data backed up in more than one location.

Shockingly, despite these significant cyber-security exposures, 85 percent of small business owners believe their company is safe from hackers, viruses, malware or a data breach. This disconnect is largely due to the widespread, albeit mistaken, belief that small businesses are unlikely targets for cyber attacks. In reality, data thieves are simply looking for the path of least resistance. As more and more large companies get serious about data security, small businesses are becoming increasingly attractive targets—and the results are often devastating for small business owners.

In recent years, nearly 60 percent of the small businesses victimized by a cyber attack closed permanently within six months. Many of these businesses put off making necessary improvements to their cyber-security protocols until it was too late because they feared the costs would be prohibitive. Don’t make the same mistake. Even if you don’t currently have the resources to bring in an outside expert to test your computer systems and make security recommendations, there are simple, economical steps you can take to reduce your risk of falling victim to a costly cyber attack. The following list of easily implementable security procedures was developed during a Federal Communications Commission roundtable on effective cyber-security strategies for small business owners and is a great place to start:

1. Train employees in cyber-security principles.
2. Install, use and regularly update antivirus and antispyware software on every computer used in your business.
3. Use a firewall for your Internet connection.
4. Download and install software updates for your operating systems and applications as they become available
5. Make backup copies of important business data and information.
6. Control physical access to your computers and network components.
7. Secure your Wi-Fi networks. If you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace make sure it is secure and hidden.
8. Require individual user accounts for each employee.
9. Limit employee access to data and information and limit authority to install software.
10. Regularly change passwords.

Cyber security is a serious concern for all businesses—large and small. Contact one of our Baer Insurance agents to learn how our risk management resources and insurance solutions can help protect your business from cyber attacks.

© 2012 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

An Invitation to Help Homeless Kids throughout the US

In the United States, there are an estimated two million homeless kids. As an Aviva representative, we feel privileged to make a difference in the lives of these kids by working alongside Aviva’s Street to School program. And, we’d like your help to provide for these kids’ most basic, personal care needs! Between now and April 30th, we are hosting a personal products care drive to benefit Covenant House, a national, 24-hour crisis center serving homeless youth.

Each year, Covenant House serves approximately 70,000 at-risk and homeless kids. Most arrive with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and—like most of us—they look forward to having food, shelter, clean clothes and the chance to shower. Donations as simple as combs and toothbrushes help make this possible, and show that someone cares.

Want to help? The next time you’re at the store, please pick up an extra item or two and drop them by the office. Most-needed items include toothbrushes and toothpaste, combs and brushes, shaving cream, hotel-size soaps, small bottles of shampoo, and deodorant. Look for the yellow sign in our Madison and Mt. Horeb offices to drop off your donation!

Baer Insurance: March Newsletter

Click the following link to check out Baer Insurance’s March 2012 Newsletter!  A few of the insurance topics include sewer back up prevention, employment practices liability issues and coverage and emergency tips.

Serving Wisconsin & Illinois

Baer Insurance Services serves families, individuals and businesses throughout these areas:

Middleton WI, Madison WI, Waunakee WI, Cross Plains WI, Verona WI, Dane WI, Windsor WI, Black Earth WI, Mc Farland WI, De Forest WI, Oregon WI, Mount Horeb WI, Morrisonville WI, Mazomanie WI, Sun Prairie WI, Lodi WI, Cottage Grove WI, Belleville WI, Arlington WI, Blue Mounds WI, Sauk City WI, Stoughton WI, Prairie Du Sac WI, Brooklyn WI, Barneveld WI, Merrimac WI, New Glarus WI, Arena WI, Poynette WI, Deerfield WI, Marshall WI, Ridgeway WI, Monticello WI, Evansville WI, Cambridge WI, Honey Creek WI, North Freedom WI, Hollandale WI, Albany WI, Rio WI, Blanchardville WI, Waterloo WI, Edgerton WI, Spring Green WI, Columbus WI, Baraboo WI, Doylestown WI, Wyocena WI, Pardeeville WI, Fall River WI, Plain WI, Argyle WI, Rock Springs WI, Loganville WI, Milton WI, Janesville WI, Hanover WI, Reedsburg WI, Naperville IL, Fox Valley IL, Warrenville IL, Lisle IL, Eola IL, Wheaton IL, Aurora IL, Winfield IL, Woodridge IL, West Chicago IL, Glen Ellyn IL, Downers Grove IL, Bolingbrook IL, Batavia IL, Carol Stream IL, North Aurora IL, Mooseheart IL, Lombard IL, Westmont IL, Glendale Heights IL, Darien IL, Montgomery IL, Geneva IL, Saint Charles IL, Oswego IL, Lemont IL, Addison IL

Top 10 Family Vehicles for 2011

Remember piling into your family’s sedan as a kid? Maybe you fought for space in the way back of the family station wagon. Back in the day, there weren’t many choices for family vehicles. Nowadays, there’s a plethora of options to choose from. From minivans to wagons, crossovers to SUVs and more, today’s modern family can select from vehicles of all different shapes and sizes.

To help with the decision process, Kelly Blue Book (KBB) compiled a list of the Top 10 Family Cars for 2011. The criteria KBB used in determining the top picks included safety, comfort, economy of operation, child-friendliness, a reasonable purchase price and good resale value tops among others. Here are the picks of Top Family Cars for 2011, from largest to smallest.

Chevrolet Suburban
Honda Odyssey
Chevrolet Traverse
Ford Flex
Ford Explorer
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Kia Sorento
Chrysler 300
Hyundai Sonata
Volkswagen Golf

Which one would you choose? No matter what vehicle you drive, be sure that your family is protected with the right auto insurance.

5 Big Insurance Mistakes


With far too many Americans out of work, and others forced to make ends meet with less money, many people are looking for ways to cut costs. There are smart ways to save on home and auto insurance; however, there are also mistakes that can result in being significantly underinsured.

When money is tight, it is extremely important to be financially protected against a catastrophe with the right amount and type of insurance by taking a few simple steps, it is possible to cut costs and still be protected should disaster strike.

Following are five of the biggest insurance mistakes that consumers should look out for:

Insuring a home for its real estate value rather than for the cost of rebuilding. When real estate prices go down, some homeowners may think they can reduce the amount of insurance on their home. But insurance is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding, not the sales price of the home. You should make sure that you have enough coverage to completely rebuild your home and replace your belongings.

A better way to save: Raise your deductible. An increase from $500 to $1,000 could save up to 25 percent on your premium payments.

Selecting an insurance company by price alone. It is important to choose a company with competitive prices, but also one that is financially sound and provides good customer service.

A better way to save: Check the financial health of a company with independent rating agencies and ask friends and family for recommendations. You should select an insurance company that will respond to your needs and handle claims fairly and efficiently.

Dropping flood insurance. Damage from flooding is not covered under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. Coverage is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), as well as from some private insurance companies. Many homeowners are unaware they are at risk for flooding, but in fact 25 percent of all flood losses occur in low risk areas.

A better way to save: Before purchasing a home, check with the NFIP to check whether it is in a flood zone; if so, consider a less risky area. If you are already living in a flood zone area, look at mitigation efforts that can reduce your risk of flood damage and consider purchasing flood insurance.

Only purchasing the legally required amount of liability for your car. In today’s litigious society, buying only the minimum amount of liability means you are likely to pay more out-of-pocket—and those costs may be steep

A better way to save: Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverage on older cars worth less than $1,000. The insurance industry and consumer groups generally recommend a minimum of $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $300,000 per accident.

If you don’t own your home, neglecting to buy renters insurance. A renters policy covers your possessions and additional living expenses if you have to move out due to a disaster. Equally important, it provides liability protection in the event someone is injured in your home and decides to sue.

A better way to save: Look into multi-policy discounts. Buying several policies with the same insurer will generally provide surmountable savings.

Scheduling Under Homeowners


Perhaps it’s the latest electronic gadget or large screen hi-def television, or new sporting goods gear or maybe a piece of sparkling jewelry. If you happen to receive or purchase a particularly expensive item, you may consider purchasing extra protection, just in case.

Why would I need to schedule valuable items?

The protection provided for personal property under the typical homeowners, condo or renters policy is very broad, and includes coverage for your furniture, clothing, and appliances. It only provides limited coverage for valuable items such as jewelry, silverware, furs, and art. It may not cover some types of loss that may be important to you, such as the stone falling out of your diamond ring, your china being accidentally broken or your rare coins being stolen.

What types of property can be covered?

Here’s a quick listing of some of the items typically covered:

cameras (video or still) and related equipment
china and crystal
coins (rare and current)
golfer’s equipment
musical instruments
personal computers
stamps (rare and current)
works of fine art, including paintings, etchings, pictures and other bona fide works of art (such as oriental rugs, statuary, rare books, manuscripts and bric-a-brac) of rarity, historical value or artistic merit.

If you own something of value that is not listed above, it may still be eligible for coverage.

How to Schedule Personal Property

The process for scheduling valuable personal property differs from one insurance company to another. The insurance company keeps copies of appraisals or recent receipts for the items on file. The dollar amount of the value of the items added determines the price of scheduled property insurance.

Scheduling items allows you to purchase better protection for your special property than would be available under the typical homeowners policy. In addition to being able to purchase higher limits of coverage, more perils are covered.