Insurance is often reactive — have an accident, file a claim. But avoiding claims will keep your premiums down. So when it comes to auto insurance, remodelers — who have people doing business every day in their personal or company vehicles — must be proactive.
Peter Valentino, owner of Fisher Construction, in Fairfield, Calif., had an employee who got into several accidents while driving the company's truck and trailer. Because of the employee's age, 22, the company's insurance tripled. Valentino ultimately let him go.
Valentino checks employee driving records (the 22-year-old's record was clean but he was inexperienced) of those who drive company vehicles, does drug screening, and has the company as additionally insured on employees' policies if they drive their own cars on company time.
These are good rules to follow, says Marty Orlowski, account executive for The McNish Group, an independent insurance agency in Royal Oak, Mich. He also suggests not limiting the records search to company-vehicle drivers, and annually getting a motor vehicle report (MVR) for every employee. “If someone sees deep pockets, they might name your business in a suit even if your employee is not driving one of your vehicles,” Orlowski says. “You'll still have to defend your way out of the suit and possibly spend time in court.”
You can go to a state Web site to order an MVR for about $6 (depending on the state) or you can run it through your insurance company, but because of privacy laws, Orlowski says, you may not learn everything. “Have the employee or prospective hire order it themselves, reimburse them, and have them sign a consent form allowing you to see it,” he says. “If you knowingly put a bad driver behind the wheel, a jury award might be worse than if you had someone with a good driving record.” You might also deduce information from the report. “Someone who's always in a hurry might be in a hurry on a job-site,” Orlowski says.