This article is directed at the small farms in California. The big farms out there (and there are a lot) do things differently than the regular folks. They self insure, they form their own captive insurance company (a different article for a different time) or they join a SIG (self insured group).
The small farm typically doesn’t have the ability to arrange or participate in any of the above scenarios which means they must participate in the traditional workers comp system. How does a small farm find a good workers comp policy? While most insurance companies in California do not insure farms, there is a good handful that do, and do it well.
This, then, is a guide for you, Mr./Mrs. Small Farmer, as you seek to find a reliable, well priced workers comp company.
Here they are, the best workers comp companies for the small farm:
One – Zenith. (www.thezenith.com) Zenith has been involved in workers comp for the farming industry since 1949. Over the years they have developed a reputation for being tough at fighting fraud, which is an increasing concern among employers in California. They use their own claims team to handle workplace injuries rather than outsourcing the job to a Third Party Administrator. Zenith also has a ton of resources on their website and recently added Zenith University, which has over 100 free webinars, seminars, and courses for policyholders that help you create a safe and healthy workplace culture. Zenith also specializes in taking clients with high Xmods and helping get them lowered.
Two – Nationwide. (www.nationwide.com). Yes, you heard it right; Nationwide – the company that is “On Your Side.” They are new to workers comp in California as of 1/1/2017, but they have writing workers comp in just about all the other states for almost 100 years so their knowledge and expertise in workers comp runs deep. Nationwide uses its own claims adjusters rather than outsourcing the work to a Third Party Administrator. They offer help and support for employers seeking to create a safer workplace. One thing to keep in mind is that Nationwide only offers workers comp to its farm clients which means that in order to get workers comp with Nationwide, you must also have a farm policy with them. Lastly, they offer huge discounts if you’re a Farm Bureau member.
Three – AIG. (www.aig.com) AIG likes them a little bigger than the others. Their minimum premiums usually start around $20,000, however they will often insure higher risk farms with unique operations that many other insurance companies will only insure if the premium is over six figures. AIG uses its own claims staff rather than outsourcing the task to a Third Party Administrator. One great feature they offer is monthly self reporting. With monthly self reporting, you can report your payroll each month and pay based on that stated payroll. This is works out well for farms that have fluctuating payroll and reduces the likelihood of a large final audit bill.
Four – Berkshire Hathaway. (www.bhhc.com). Much like AIG, Berkshire Hathaway likes the farms that they insure to be a little bigger than some of the smaller farms that other insurance companies will insure. Just about everything about Berkshire Hathaway is first class. They have their own claims team rather than outsourcing those duties to a Third Party Administrator. They are tough on fraud. Berkshire also offers the option of monthly reporting, which is a great feature for those farms that have fluctuating payroll and helps prevent big final audit bills.
Five – ICW (www.icwgroup.com). Insurance Company of the West (ICW) is a solid company. They, like Zenith, are known for being tough on fraud. They offer monthly payroll reporting, which as discussed above, is great for fluctuating payroll and helps prevent big final audit bills. They handle their own claims instead of using a Third Party Administrator. They offer a ton of free resources online that help you create a culture of safety. Like Zenith, one of their specialties is helping their clients lower their Xmods.
There you have it. The top five. The best of the best.
Oh, and there’s also State Fund (www.statefundca.com). I can’t put them on the list as a standout company, but in many cases they are the only company willing to insure a small farm. If you’ve been lapsed, if you are a start up, if your work is a little more risky than a traditional farm, if you’ve had a lot of claims, if you are very small and generate very small amounts of payroll, or a combination of any of the aforementioned, State Fund may just be the only company willing to insure you. If you want to know about State Fund, read my article here: How To Deal With State Fund If You Must
Operating a farm in California is not an easy venture and it’s not for the faint of heart. But then again, farmers are built a little tougher than the rest of us. They are the ultimate self sufficient survivalists I know of. And for that, they deserve a good workers comp policy.
I’m the commercial producer and owner at Gillespie Insurance Services.
Gillespie Insurance Services helps people and businesses in California, Arizona and Nevada.