September 5, 2010

Do Your Clients Employ Nannies, Dog Walkers, Bear Handlers? Insurance Review May Be in Order

Many people who hire service workers have little or no insurance for them

Clients who hire nannies to care for their kids or dog walkers to watch their furry loved ones might want to think about whether their insurance is broad enough to cover such workers. If they have personal chefs, ditto. And other clients who run pet-sitting or grooming businesses, in-home plant care services, or who cater meals or act as personal concierges should think about it, too.

People hired to perform in-home or around-the-home services, whether covered by their own insurance or not, might end up being unintentionally covered by--or suing--the person who hired them in case of accidents. The nanny, for instance. What if she's driving your car to pick up the kids? Your car insurance may not cover her. If she trips on a kid's toy and falls, you may have to pay worker's compensation--or be sued. Suppose your personal chef is burned in a kitchen fire or serves a meal at which guests fall ill--or your personal concierge is struck by an uninsured car as he crosses the street to pick up your dry cleaning.

A spectacular and unusual example of someone who didn't carry insurance is Sam Mazzola, who ran an exotic animal business in Ohio, World Animal Studios, which he claimed ceased operations in 2005 in an apparent effort to reduce unpaid workers' compensation premiums in a bankruptcy declaration. However, Mazzola still owned an assortment of large and dangerous animals--a lion, tigers, bears, and wolves--and a man apparently caring for the animals was mauled to death by one of the bears. Variously described as "like a member of [the] family" who "helped out with the animals" and "an experienced animal handler," Brent Kandra died after opening the bear's cage to feed it. Mazzola is currently under investigation.

If you are an advisor that has clients with unusual businesses, you might have to search a bit harder to make sure they have adequate coverage for themselves, their employees, and their operations, but it can be done. According to a story by NU Online News Service, plenty of companies specialize in unusual risks, and deal with the unexpected every day, like the metal stamping plant that kept guard tigers on the premises. Even the less exotic but more abstruse can find coverage, such as the company that collects and freezes bull semen, a common method of producing dairy cattle: through artificial insemination.

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