Be safe while bicycling this summer (image via The Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists)

Arizona’s natural beauty and climate make it the perfect place to ride a bike.  The blue skies, warm weather, and breathtaking vistas elevate a bike ride to a cycling experience.  But while you are out, relishing the feel of the wind on your face and the warmth of the sun on your back, make sure you are taking steps to stay safe and secure.

Be Safe

Whenever you are on your bike, safety has to be a top concern.  The dangers of cycling are inherent wherever you choose to ride, but here in Arizona you are also dealing with the dangers of the desert like dehydration and heat stroke.  Sharing the road with automobiles also increases the risk of riding your bike.  In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that 2% of all traffic fatalities involved cyclists.  Be safe whenever and wherever you ride by following these simple safety rules.

  1. Use your head and wear a helmet.  Never, ever ride without a helmet.  According to the NHTSA, 70% of fatal bicycle accidents involve brain injuries and bike helmets are 85% effective at preventing these types of injuries.
  2. Follow the rules.  When you are on the road, even if you are on a bike, you need to follow the rules of the road just as you would if you were driving a car.  This helps keep you safe by making your behavior predictable to those you are sharing the road with.  Always stay as far to the right side of the road as you can safely ride.
  3. See and be seen.  The unfortunate fact is that some automobile drivers won’t see you which means you must assume that none of them see you and make sure you do everything you can to ensure motorists and other cyclists see you.
  4. Pay attention.  Don’t let yourself become distracted.  Don’t wear headphones which block out the sounds of oncoming traffic which could alert you to a dangerous situation.  Don’t talk or text on your cell phone.  Don’t try to visit with your friend while you are riding together.  The best way to stay safe is to stay focused and remain alert to potential dangers around you.

Be Secure

Even when you are not on your bike, security should be your top concern.  Bikes range in cost from a hundred dollars to several thousand dollars and are easier to steal and resell than a car.  The good news is that most standard homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies cover losses to bicycles.  Your policy should cover the same kinds of losses that are covered if you have comprehensive car insurance like damage caused by weather, fire, or theft.  Although this is generally the case, you should check your policy or speak to your representative to make sure this coverage is provided in your policy.

As part of this check, you also need to ask if there is a limit on the recoverable amount for bicycles under your policy.  Even though your homeowner’s or renter’s policy covers damage to bicycles, the amount of coverage may be less than the actual limits on your policy.  This is especially important for anyone with expensive bicycles.  Don’t assume your policy will automatically cover the cost of a new bike.  If there is a limit, ask your agent to explain what options are available to you to increase coverage to cover the full cost of replacement.

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Worker's Compensation

Is your small business properly insured? Image via Flickr

For small business employers, understanding the ins and outs of Workers Compensation coverage and the accompanying legal requirements can be overwhelming.  Here are some of the most common questions asked by employers about Arizona Workers Compensation Insurance.

1.     How does Workers Compensation insurance help my employees?

This type of coverage protects employees who are injured on the job and ensures they will receive compensation for lost wages, payment of related medical expenses, and in some cases, monetary awards for disability and damages.  It is no fault insurance, which means payments are made regardless of who was responsible for causing the accident, injury, or illness.   Workers Compensation insurance also provides death benefits for the survivors of an employee who is killed on the job.

2.     What does Workers Compensation insurance do for me as a business owner?

While the primary intent of Workers Compensation coverage is to protect employees, it also offers some protection for companies and business owners.  If an employee is injured on the job, everything to do with that injury is handled under the Workers Compensation policy.  This means there is no need for litigation between the employee and the company and businesses don’t have to worry about or plan for the potential of huge legal fees associated with litigation.

3.     Who is required to carry Workers Compensation insurance in Arizona?

According to the Industrial Commission of Arizona, the agency responsible for the administration and enforcement of any state law that pertains to the health and safety of employees, all employers in the state are required to secure Workers Compensation coverage for their employees under Arizona Law.  The details of the law and how it is administered and enforced can be found in Article 18, Section 8 of theArizona State Constitution, Chapter 6 of Title 23 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, and the Workers’ Compensation Practice and Procedurerules outlined in the Arizona Administrative Code.

4.     If I am the only person who works for my company, do I need Workers Compensation coverage?

Sole proprietors are not required to carry Workers Compensation coverage for themselves.  However, it may not be a bad idea to cover yourself if you have an occupation that is inherently dangerous or carries a higher than normal probability of injury.

5.     What happens if I don’t have Workers Compensation coverage and an employee is injured on the job?

If one of your employees is injured on the job and you do not have the required Workers Compensation coverage, what happens next is up to the employee.  The employee can file a claim with the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA).  If the claim is accepted by the ICA, the state will process the claim and pay for the medical expenses and lost wages that would normally have been covered by the Workers Compensation insurance policy.  The state will then charge your company the full amount of benefits paid out to the employee plus a penalty that is equal to 10% of the amount paid out or $1,000, whichever is greater.  The other option is a civil suit.  Because you don’t have the protections provided by a Workers Compensation policy, the employee can choose to file a civil suit against the company to recover damages.  The employee’s injury is the only requirement in this type of filing to prove the negligence of the employer.

6.     Are there any penalties for not having Workers Compensation insurance if none of my employees ever file a claim with the state?

According to the ICA, the state can fine your company the same $1,000 penalty for failing to carry the required coverage regardless of whether or not a claim is filed.  If your company is found not to have insurance again within the same 5 year timeframe, the fine increases to $5,000 for the second finding and $10,000 for the third.

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