Drunk Driving Holiday Risks

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Alcohol is a major factor in traffic accidents. Based on data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there was an alcohol-impaired traffic fatality every 51 minutes in 2015.

Alcohol-impaired crashes are those that involve at least one driver or a motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above, the legal definition of drunk driving. According to NHTSA 10,265 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in 2015, up 3.2 percent from 9,943 in 2014. In 2015 alcohol-impaired crash fatalities accounted for 29 percent of all crash fatalities.

The definition of drunk driving had been consistent throughout the United States until March 2017. All states and the District of Columbia defined impairment as driving with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) at or above 0.08 percent. In addition, they all have zero tolerance laws prohibiting drivers under the age of 21 from drinking and driving. Generally the BAC limit in these cases is 0.02 percent. In March 2017, the governor of Utah signed a bill, effective December 30, 2018, that lowered the limit defining impaired driving for most drivers to 0.05 percent BAC, the lowest in the nation.

Anti-drunk-driving campaigns especially target drivers under the age of 21, repeat offenders and 21-to 34-year-olds, the age group that is responsible for more alcohol-related fatal crashes than any other. Young drivers are those least responsive to arguments against drunk driving, according to NHTSA.

To make sellers and servers of liquor more careful about to whom and how they serve drinks, 42 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws or have case law holding commercial liquor servers legally liable for the damage, injuries and deaths a drunk driver causes. Thirty-nine states have enacted laws or have case law that permit social hosts who serve liquor to people who subsequently are involved in crashes to be held liable for any injury or death. (See chart below and Background.)

Recent developments

  • Latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that the 10,265 alcohol-impaired fatalities in 2015 accounted for about one out of three highway deaths (29 percent) on U.S. roads. There were 9,943 such fatalities in 2014.
  • Ignition interlock systems require drivers to blow into a breathalyzer-like device to ensure the individual is sober before allowing the vehicle to start. According to a report released in January 2017 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, traffic fatalities have declined by 7 percent in states that mandate ignition interlocks for first-time drunken-driving offenders. The researchers studied traffic fatalities for about five years before states began passing interlock laws in the late 1980s through 2013, when all states required them under some circumstances. See Background, Repeat Offenders.
  • Drunk Driving by Gender: Latest NHTSA data show that 14 percent of women drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2015 (1,761 drivers) were alcohol-impaired, only 1 percentage point lower than in 2006. In comparison, 21 percent of male drivers involved in fatal crashed were alcohol impaired in 2015, down from 24 percent in 2006.
  • Drunk Driving by Age: According to data from NHTSA, in 2015 the percentage of drivers in fatal crashes who were alcohol impaired was highest for 21 to 24 year old drivers, at 28 percent, followed by 25 to 34 year old drivers, at 27 percent, and 35 to 44 year old drivers, at 23 percent. The percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers in fatal crashes was 19 percent for 45 to 54 year olds, 16 percent of 16 to 20 year olds, 14 percent for 55 to 64 year olds, 9 percent for 65 to 74 year olds and 6 percent for drivers over the age of 74.
  • Drunk Driving by Vehicle Type: NHTSA data for 2015 show that 27 percent of motorcycle drivers involved in fatal crashes were alcohol impaired, compared with 21 percent of passenger car drivers and 20 percent of light truck drivers. Only 2 percent of large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2015 were alcohol impaired.
  • Social Host Liability: The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in February 2012 that social hosts could be held liable for off-premise injury to people caused by the drunk driving of a guest only if the host served alcohol or made it available. People who host “bring your own” parties are free from liability, even if the guest is underage. The court rejected an attempt by the parents of an injured 16-year-old to sue a party’s 18-year old host. The younger person suffered injuries in a crash in a car driven by someone who brought his own alcohol to the party. At issue was the fact that the driver, not the party host, supplied the liquor. Although the lawsuit contended that the host should be found negligent for allowing the driver to drink at her home, the court said that earlier rulings showed that hosts can’t be responsible for their guests’ drinking if they don’t control the supply of alcohol. Massachusetts law and court cases have held social hosts liable if they supply alcohol (See chart: STATUTES OR COURT CASES HOLDING ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE SERVERS LIABLE).
  • Also in February 2012 the New Mexico Supreme Court said that circumstantial evidence of a driver’s intoxication was sufficient to support a jury finding that the driver was intoxicated, overruling a decision in a 2004 case. Evidence presented in the earlier trial showed that a driver who struck and killed a motorcyclist had a 0.09 percent blood alcohol content five hours after the crash. The owners of the gas station where the driver worked and consumed a number of beers bought at the gas station pleaded ignorance of the driver’s condition. The court ruled that the blood test results were enough to prove that the driver was intoxicated. The ruling holds liquor sellers responsible for liability where evidence is available under the existing dram shop law.

How to Lower Car Insurance Costs

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One of the best ways to keep your auto insurance costs down is to have a good driving record.

Listed below are other things you can do to lower your insurance costs.

1. Shop around

Prices vary from company to company, so it pays to shop around. Get at least three price quotes. You can call companies directly or access information on the Internet. Your state insurance department may also provide comparisons of prices charged by major insurers. (State insurance department phone numbers and Web sites can be found on the back cover.)

You buy insurance to protect you financially and provide peace of mind. It?s important to pick a company that is financially stable. Check the financial health of insurance companies with rating companies such as A.M. Best (www.ambest.com) and Standard & Poor?s (www.standardandpoors.com/ratings) and consult consumer magazines.

Get quotes from different types of insurance companies. Some sell through their own agents. These agencies have the same name as the insurance company. Some sell through independent agents who offer policies from several insurance companies. Others do not use agents. They sell directly to consumers over the phone or via the Internet.

Don?t shop by price alone. Ask friends and relatives for their recommendations. Contact your state insurance department to find out whether they provide information on consumer complaints by company. Pick an agent or company representative that takes the time to answer your questions. You can use the checklist on the back of this brochure to help you compare quotes from insurers.

2. Before you buy a car, compare insurance costs

Before you buy a new or used car, check into insurance costs. Car insurance premiums are based in part on the car?s price, the cost to repair it, its overall safety record and the likelihood of theft. Many insurers offer discounts for features that reduce the risk of injuries or theft. To help you decide what car to buy, you can get information from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (www.iihs.org).

3. Ask for higher deductibles

Deductibles are what you pay before your insurance policy kicks in. By requesting higher deductibles, you can lower your costs substantially. For example, increasing your deductible from $200 to $500 could reduce your collision and comprehensive coverage cost by 15 to 30 percent. Going to a $1,000 deductible can save you 40 percent or more. Before choosing a higher deductible, be sure you have enough money set aside to pay it if you have a claim.

4. Reduce coverage on older cars

Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverages on older cars. If your car is worth less than 10 times the premium, purchasing the coverage may not be cost effective. Auto dealers and banks can tell you the worth of cars. Or you can look it up online at Kelley?s Blue Book (www.kbb.com). Review your coverage at renewal time to make sure your insurance needs haven?t changed.

5. Buy your homeowners and auto coverage from the same insurer

Many insurers will give you a break if you buy two or more types of insurance. You may also get a reduction if you have more than one vehicle insured with the same company. Some insurers reduce the rates for long-time customers. But it still makes sense to shop around! You may save money buying from different insurance companies, compared with a multipolicy discount.

6. Maintain a good credit record

Establishing a solid credit history can cut your insurance costs. Most insurers use credit information to price auto insurance policies. Research shows that people who effectively manage their credit have fewer claims. To protect your credit standing, pay your bills on time, don?t obtain more credit than you need and keep your credit balances as low as possible. Check your credit record on a regular basis and have any errors corrected promptly so that your record remains accurate.

7. Take advantage of low mileage discounts

Some companies offer discounts to motorists who drive a lower than average number of miles per year. Low mileage discounts can also apply to drivers who car pool to work.

8. Ask about group insurance

Some companies offer reductions to drivers who get insurance through a group plan from their employers, through professional, business and alumni groups or from other associations. Ask your employer and inquire with groups or clubs you are a member of to see if this is possible.

9. Seek out other discounts

Companies offer discounts to policyholders who have not had any accidents or moving violations for a number of years. You may also get a discount if you take a defensive driving course. If there is a young driver on the policy who is a good student, has taken a drivers education course or is away at college without a car, you may also qualify for a lower rate.

When you comparison shop, inquire about discounts for the following:*

Antitheft Devices
Auto and Homeowners Coverage with the Same Company
College Students away from Home
Defensive Driving Courses
Drivers Ed Courses
Good Credit Record
Higher deductibles
Low Annual Mileage
Long-Time Customer
More than 1 car
No Accidents in 3 Years
No Moving Violations in 3 Years
Student Drivers with Good Grades

*The discounts listed may not be available in all states or from all insurance companies.

The key to savings is not the discounts, but the final price. A company that offers few discounts may still have a lower overall price.

Reviewed by:

Federal Citizen Information Center
www.pueblo.gsa.gov

National Consumers League
www.nclnet.org

Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, USDA
www.csrees.usda.gov

FAQ FEMA & Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

For those who do not have the right insurance, or who need help beyond their coverage, government programs can sometimes step in to help with post-disaster recovery. Here is a round-up of the most frequently asked questions about the disaster assistance offered by FEMA.


Q. How do I apply for FEMA disaster assistance?

A. You can apply at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or m.fema.gov, or call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362. If you have a speech disability or hearing impairment and use a TTY, call 800-462-7585 directly. If you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 800-621-3362.

Q. What happens after I apply for disaster assistance?

A. FEMA will mail you a copy of your application and a copy of Help After a Disaster: Applicant’s Guide to the Individuals and Households Program that will answer many of your questions.

  • If you do not have insurance: An inspector will contact you after you apply to schedule a time to meet you at your damaged home.
  • If you have insurance: You need to file your insurance claim and provide FEMA with a decision letter (settlement or denial) from your insurance company before FEMA issues an inspection.
    • There is an exception for damages caused by flooding; if you have flood insurance, FEMA will issue an inspection before receiving a copy of your flood insurance decision letter to evaluate your eligibility for temporary living expenses since these are not covered by flood insurance.
  • About 10 days after the inspection FEMA will decide if you qualify for assistance. If so, FEMA will send you a check by mail (or direct deposit) with an explanation of what the money covers (i.e. rent or home repair).
  • If FEMA determines that you are ineligible for any reason, you will receive a letter and be given a chance to appeal. Appeals must be in writing and mailed within 60 days of the determination. Read the letter carefully for the reason of ineligibility before filing your appeal.
  • If you get a Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Loan application in the mail, you must complete and return it to be considered for a loan or certain types of grant assistance, such as transportation, personal property, and moving and storage.

Q. Why didn’t I receive rental assistance when my home can’t be lived in?

A. If you cannot live in your home because of disaster damage and you did not receive rental assistance, please contact FEMA to check on your status. It could be that during the inspection you indicated that you were unwilling to relocate. If so, FEMA would not move forward to issuing a rental assistance check for you to move to another location.

Q. I received a rental assistance check, how do I find a new place to rent?

A. The FEMA Housing Portal is intended to help individuals and families, who have been displaced by a disaster, find a place to live. The portal consolidates rental resources to help individuals and families find available rental units in their area. This information can be accessed by visiting www.fema.gov and searching “Housing Portal,” or by calling 800-621-3362.

Q. Will my family get assistance faster if we each apply separately?

A. No. If two members of the same household apply for the same damaged home, FEMA assistance could actually be delayed. If more than one member of a household has applied, the additional registrants should call the FEMA Helpline, 800-621-3362 to withdraw their applications. Once this occurs, the original registration for the household can be processed for assistance.

Q. If I received a settlement from my insurance but still have additional needs, what can I do?

A. As soon as you receive an insurance settlement, you should provide a copy to FEMA and identify any unmet needs you have. Although FEMA cannot duplicate benefits that your insurance provided, FEMA may be able to assist you with lost essential items not covered by insurance and can also help you find resources through other recovery partners.

Q. Why did I get a different amount of home repair assistance than my neighbor?

A. Each survivor’s case is unique. There are several factors involved, including insurance status and the extent and type of damage found during the home inspection. If you feel that the assistance you received does not cover your needs ? for example, the funding you received for repairs are less than the estimates you’ve received from contractors and you have not yet met the FEMA maximum grant ? you can appeal.

Q. Will FEMA provide additional rental assistance beyond the initial assistance period if I still cannot return to my home?

A. Rental assistance can be provided for up to 18 months from the date of declaration while you are setting up your permanent housing plan. After your initial period of assistance, you will be sent a letter on how to “recertify” if you need additional rental assistance.

Q. Could FEMA assistance affect my Social Security benefits, federal taxes, food stamp (SNAP) eligibility, or Medicaid?

A. No. FEMA assistance does not affect benefits from other federal programs and is not considered taxable income.

Q. I’ve already cleaned up the damage to my home and made repairs. Is it too late to register once the work is done?

A. No. You may be eligible for reimbursement of your cleanup and repair costs, even if repairs are complete. The important thing is to document the expenses you incur. It is a good idea to take before-and-after photos for your records.

Q. If I received disaster assistance last year, could I get it again this year?

A. Assistance may be available if you also suffered damages from a previously federally declared disaster.

Q. My child is a U.S. citizen, but I am not. Can I apply for FEMA disaster assistance?

A. If anyone in an affected household is a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien (a “Green Card” holder), they are eligible to apply for FEMA disaster assistance. If a minor child is eligible by these criteria, even when other members of the family are not, the family can file an application on the child’s behalf.

In this case, all identification documents have to be in the child’s name and Social Security number. The copy of the child’s Social Security card and birth certificate are acceptable verification. This information can be mailed to FEMA or brought to a Disaster Recovery Center.

Additional resources

For more information, visit the FEMA website.

Business Interruption Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

Business interruption insurance can be as vital to your survival as a business as fire insurance. Most people would never consider opening a business without buying insurance to cover damage due to fire and windstorms. But too many small businessowners fail to think about how they would manage if a fire or other disaster damaged their business premises so that they were temporarily unusable. Business interruption coverage is not sold separately. It is added to a property insurance policy or included in a package policy.

A business that has to close down completely while the premises are being repaired may lose out to competitors. A quick resumption of business after a disaster is essential.

  1. Business interruption insurance compensates you for lost income if your company has to vacate the premises due to disaster-related damage that is covered under your property insurance policy, such as a fire. Business interruption insurance covers the revenue you would have earned, based on your financial records, had the disaster not occurred. The policy also covers operating expenses, like electricity, that continue even though business activities have come to a temporary halt.
  2. Make sure the policy limits are sufficient to cover your company for more than a few days. After a major disaster, it can take more time than many people anticipate to get the business back on track. There is generally a 48-hour waiting period before business interruption coverage kicks in.
  3. The price of the policy is related to the risk of a fire or other disaster damaging your premises. All other things being equal, the price would probably be higher for a restaurant than a real estate agency, for example, because of the greater risk of fire. Also, a real estate agency can more easily operate out of another location.

Extra expense insurance

Extra expense insurance reimburses your company for a reasonable sum of money that it spends, over and above normal operating expenses, to avoid having to shut down during the restoration period. Usually, extra expenses will be paid if they help to decrease business interruption costs. In some instances, extra expense insurance alone may provide sufficient coverage, without the purchase of business interruption insurance.

Beware of After-the-Storm Scams

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Natural disasters (such as a flood, earthquake, hurricane or tornado) sometimes invite another type of disaster: “Storm Chasers” who try to profit from others’ unfortunate circumstances. These profiteers take many forms – from workers posing as qualified contractors to “volunteers” trying to help only themselves to lawyers and public adjusters offering to take over your claim. If you start having second thoughts about anyone who has offered assistance after disaster strikes, here are some tips to get you back on course:

  • Never feel pressured to make a decision.
    While the need to recover quickly is understandable, do not succumb to a high-pressure sales pitch. If you’ve signed an agreement or contract, remember the Federal Trade Commission has rules protecting consumers that allow you to cancel a contract up until midnight of the third business day after entering into it. This applies to door-to-door sales contracts for more than $25, as well as sale contracts for more than $25 made at any place other than a seller’s usual place of business. Additionally, states have similar rules to help consumers having second thoughts on the contracts they’ve signed.
  • Think carefully about signing over your claim to an outsider.
    This may sound like a good idea, since it appears to free you from handling the details of disaster recovery. However, what often happens when a third-party (which can be a contractor or public adjuster) takes over your claim is that you lose control of it and repair costs may be greatly inflated, delayed or not in compliance with building codes. The desire to get the job done right the first time makes a good case for the homeowner to stay involved in the process.
  • Always deal with a licensed, insured contractor for both temporary and permanent repairs.
    Be certain to have a pro handle your job. Unlicensed individuals may actually cause more damage to your property. And, if they are injured on your property, they may hold you liable if they do not have their own insurance. You can request to see their license and verify it with state or county officials. Unlicensed contractors can be reported to your state’s licensing board. Keep receipts for temporary repairs, as your insurer will reimburse you for these expenses.
  • Know that your insurer is an on-call advisor to help you through every step of the claims process.
    Home and business insurance policies comes with claims services, so consult your insurer as soon as possible after disaster strikes. Disaster claims are handled based on the severity of damage, so those most impacted get priority. That is why it is important to provide an accurate preliminary account of the damage when you make the initial call to your insurer. Also, be sure to mention any circumstances that may necessitate expedited claims handling, such as special needs situations. Contact the department of insurance in your state if you have complaints.
  • Report the scam to local police and your state insurance department.
    These scams can happen to anyone, so don’t hesitate to contact authorities. Many states also have consumer affairs departments to assist you in answering questions, protecting your interests and filing charges, if necessary.

Additional Resources

Safety Tips for Cleaning Up After a Flood

Courtesy of iii.org

Cleaning up after a flood can pose health risks. You and your family should wait to re-enter your home until professionals tell you it is safe, with no structural, electrical or other hazards.

Before you start cleanup activities, contact your insurance company and take pictures of the home and your belongings. Remember, drying your home and removing water-damaged items is your most important step for preventing mold damage.

If your house has been flooded and you were not able to dry your home (including furniture and other items) within 24 ? 48 hours, you should assume you have mold growth. You may see or smell mold on clothing, drywall, furniture, cardboard boxes, or books, but it may also be hidden under or behind items like carpet, cushions, or walls.

Exposure to mold can lead to asthma attacks, eye and skin irritation, and allergic reactions. It can lead to severe infections in people with weakened immune systems, so it is important to ensure the mold cleanup is complete before reoccupying your home.

Keep in mind that standard home owners insurance policies typically exclude damage caused by mold, fungi and bacteria, unless it results from a covered peril, such as a burst pipe.

For more information, download the Homeowner?s and Renter?s Guide to Mold Cleanup After Disasters, created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a coalition of federal agencies.

Please click on the file name below to view the article in PDF format. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the file.

Download homeowners_and_renters_guide_june_24_2015.pdf

You can download Adobe Acrobat Reader, free of charge, from the Adobe website (https://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep.html).

A Week of Giving

Courtesy of iii.org

Each year, the insurance industry comes together for the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) Week of Giving. During this eight-day international and industry-wide initiative, insurance professionals complete volunteer projects in support of community nonprofit organizations.

The IICF is a nonprofit organization that unites the insurance industry in helping communities and enriching lives through grants, volunteer service and leadership. For more than 20 years, thousands of insurance industry volunteers representing their own companies work together in the spirit of industry camaraderie to serve local communities. These projects include partnerships with hundreds of nonprofits and charities, focused in the areas of early childhood literacy; homeless and veterans causes; support of women, children and families; food insecurity; child abuse prevention; beach, river and community park clean ups; disaster preparedness and safety; and other important programs. In 2016, a total of 8,500 industry volunteers, in 115 cities, participated in the IICF Week of Giving. More than 21,700 hours of service, dedicated to 400 projects, were completed with nonprofits and community organizations across the United States and United Kingdom.

The 2017 Week of Giving runs October 14 ? 21. For more information? and to sign up as a volunteer ?go to www.weekofgiving.iicf.org.

Highway Safety & You

Courtesy of iii.org

The cost and crashworthiness of vehicles as well as drivers? safety habits affect the cost of auto insurance. Out of concern for public safety and to help reduce the cost of crashes, insurers support safe driving initiatives. The insurance industry is a major supporter of anti-drunk driving and seatbelt usage campaigns.

Lives saved by safety devices

  • Airbags: Airbags are designed to inflate in moderate to severe frontal crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that as of 2013 there were 202 million airbag-equipped passenger vehicles on the road in the United States, including 199 million with dual air bags. The agency says that frontal airbags saved 2,573 lives in 2015. Airbags, combined with seatbelts, are the most effective safety protection available for passenger vehicles. Seatbelts alone reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent. The fatality-reducing effectiveness for frontal airbags is 14 percent when no seatbelt is used and 11 percent when a seatbelt is used in conjunction with airbags.
  • Seatbelts: Among passenger vehicle occupants age five and older, seatbelts saved an estimated 13,941 lives in 2015. In fatal crashes in 2014, about 80 percent of passenger vehicle occupants who were totally ejected from the vehicle were killed. NHTSA says that when used seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent. For light truck occupants, the risk is reduced by 60 percent and 65 percent, respectively.
  • Child safety seats: NHTSA says that in 2015 the lives of an estimated 266 children under the age of five were saved by restraints.
  • Motorcycle helmets: NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,772 motorcyclists in 2015. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 740 lives could have been saved.
  • Helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41 percent for motorcycle passengers. In other words, for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing a helmet, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.
  • Electronic stability control: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires all vehicles manufactured after model year 2012 to have electronic stability control (ESC). All new passenger cars, light trucks, SUVs and vans must comply with the requirement. ESC was designed to help prevent rollovers and other types of crashes by controlling brakes and engine power.
  • NHTSA says ESC saved an estimated 681 passenger car occupant lives in 2014 and 899 lives among light truck and van occupants for a total of 1,580 lives saved among passenger vehicle occupants. The 2014 total for lives compares with 1,366 lives saved in 2013 and 1,225 lives saved in 2012. Over the five years from 2010 to 2014, NHTSA says the ESC has saved a total of more than 4,100 lives.
  • NHTSA estimated that about 99 million 2006-model year and newer passenger vehicles (passenger cars and light trucks and vans) were equipped with ESC. This works out to 38.8 percent of the 255 million passenger vehicles on the road in 2014.
  • In May 2014 NHTSA released a report on updated estimates of fatality reduction by electronic stability control (ESC), which found that in single-vehicle crashes of passenger cars, where the first harmful event was a rollover, ESC decreased rollovers by 59.5 percent, relative to a control group. The reduction in rollovers was even more dramatic in LTVs such as pickup trucks, SUVs and vans, 74 percent.
  • In June 2010 the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released the findings of a study that found that ESC for passenger vehicles is one of the most effective technologies for the prevention of fatal crashes, especially rollovers. IIHS data show that it lowers the risk of a deadly crash by 33 percent and cuts the risk of a single-vehicle rollover by 73 percent. The IIHS examined 10 years of crash data from NHTSA.

Motor vehicle crashes

2017: Traffic fatalities were 1 percent lower in the first six months of 2017, compared with the same period in 2016, according to preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council (NSC). The organization says the decline comes after the steepest estimated two-year increase in traffic deaths since 1964. In addition, the first six months’ tally for 2017 is 8 percent higher than the same period in 2015.

2016: According to data released by the National Safety Council (NSC), in 2016 there were more than 40,000 traffic fatalities in the U.S. for the first time in 10 years. The NSC statistics show a 6 percent increase in auto crash deaths in 2016, and a 3 percent rise in the number of miles Americans drove, compared with 2015. NSC estimates that the cost of deaths, injuries and property damage attributed to crashes in 2016 totaled $432.5 billion, up 12 percent from 2015. Nearly 4.6 million people required medical treatment after crashes, an increase of 7 percent over 2015.

2015: According to NHTSA, traffic fatalities rose 7.2 percent in 2015 to 35,092 people from 32,744 in 2014. In 2015 an estimated 2.44 million people were injured in motor vehicle crashes. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2015 rose to 1.07 from 1.08 in 2014.

What You Need to Know About Claims

Courtesy of iii.org

After a disaster, you want to get back to normal as soon as possible, and your insurance company wants that too! You may get multiple checks from your insurer as you make temporary repairs, permanent repairs and replace damaged belongings. Here’s what you need to know about claims payments.


The initial payment isn’t final

In most instances, an adjuster will inspect the damage to your home and offer you a certain sum of money for repairs, based on the terms and limits of your homeowners policy. The first check you get from your insurance company is often an advance against the total settlement amount, not the final payment.

If you’re offered an on-the-spot settlement, you can accept the check right away. Later, if you find other damage, you can reopen the claim and file for an additional amount. Most policies require claims to be filed within one year from the date of disaster; check with your state insurance department for the laws that apply to your area.

You may receive multiple checks

When both the structure of your home and your personal belongings are damaged, you generally receive two separate checks from your insurance company, one for each category of damage. If your home is uninhabitable, you’ll also receive a check for the additional living expenses (ALE) you incur if you can?t live in your home while it is being repaired. If you have flood insurance and experienced flood damage, that means a separate check as well.

Your lender or management company might have control over your payment

If you have a mortgage on your house, the check for repairs will generally be made out to both you and the mortgage lender. As a condition of granting a mortgage, lenders usually require that they are named in the homeowners policy and that they are a party to any insurance payments related to the structure. Similarly, if you live in a coop or condominium, your management company may have required that the building’s financial entity be named as a co-insured.

This is so the lender (and/or, in the case of a coop or condo, the overall building), who has a financial interest in your property, can ensure that the necessary repairs are made.

When a financial backer is a co-insured, they will have to endorse the claims payment check before you can cash it.

Depending on the circumstances, lenders may also put the money in an escrow account and pay for the repairs as the work is completed. Show the mortgage lender your contractor’s bid and let the lender know how much the contractor wants upfront to start the job. Your mortgage company may want to inspect the finished job before releasing the funds for payment to the contractor.

If your home has been destroyed, the amount of the settlement and who gets it is driven by your policy type, its specific limits and the terms of your mortgage. For example, part of the insurance proceeds may be used to pay off the balance due on the mortgage. And, how the remaining proceeds are spent depend on your own decisions, such as if you want to rebuild on the same lot, in a different location or not rebuild at all. Tthese decisions are also driven by state law.

Your insurance company may pay your contractor directly

Some contractors may ask you to sign a “direction to pay” form that allows your insurance company to pay the firm directly. This form is a legal document, so you should read it carefully to be sure you are not also assigning your entire claim over to the contractor. When in doubt, call your insurance professional before you sign. Assigning your entire insurance claim to a third party takes you out of the process and gives control of your claim to the contractor.

When work is completed to restore your property, make certain the job has been completed to your satisfaction before you let your insurer make the final payment to the contractor.

Your ALE check should be made out to you

Your check for additional living expenses (ALE) has nothing to do with repairs to your home. So, ensure that this check is made out to you alone and not your lender. The ALE check covers your expenses for hotels, car rental, meals out and other expenses you may incur while your home is being fixed.

Your personal belongings will be calculated on cash value, first

You’ll have to submit a list of your damaged belongings to your insurance company (having a home inventory will make this a lot easier). Even if you have a replacement value policy, the first check you receive from your insurer will be based on the cash value of the items, which is the depreciated amount based on the age of the item. Why do insurance companies do this? It is to match the remaining claim payment to the exact replacement cost. If you decide not to replace an item, you?ll be paid the actual cash value (depreciated) amount for it.

To get replacement value for your items, you must actually replace them

To get fully reimbursed for damaged items, most insurance companies will require you to purchase replacements. Your company will ask for copies of receipts as proof of purchase, then pay the difference between the cash value you initially received and the full cost of the replacement with an item of similar size and quality. You’ll generally have several months from the date of the cash value payment to purchase replacements; consult with your agent regarding the timeframe.

In the case of a total loss, where the entire house and its contents are damaged beyond repair, insurers generally pay the policy limits, according to the laws in your state. That means you can receive a check for what the home and contents were insured for at the time of the disaster.

Next steps: We can’t reinforce it enough – claims are easier to make when you have a home inventory ready!

Insurance Claims and Irma FAQ

Courtesy of iii.org

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, policyholders may have questions about how insurance works following a natural disaster. Here are some answers to many of these common questions.


Q. Are flood losses covered under my homeowners insurance policy?

A. Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover flood damage, including damage from a storm surge. Flood coverage requires a separate policy from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), or from some private insurance companies.

More information about flood insurance.

Q. Is property damage from a storm surge considered flood damage?

A. Yes, it is?and, therefore, storm surge is covered by your flood insurance policy. A standard homeowners insurance policy does not cover damage from floods, such as flooding from a storm surge.

Q. What is the “official” definition of a flood? If there is only water on my property in my neighborhood, is that considered a flood?

A. Flood damage is caused by an overflow of inland or tidal waters and is defined as a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres and two or more properties of what is normally dry land. So if only one property is damaged, then that is not considered flood related.

Q. Is wind damage covered under my homeowners insurance policy?

A. Property insurance covers damage from windstorms, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, to the “residence premises,” whether it is a single-family home, a duplex where the policyholder lives in one of the units, or any other building where the policyholder resides as shown on the insurance declarations page. A standard homeowners policy also applies to attached structures, such as a garage or deck, and “other structures” that are unattached, such as a separate garage building or shed and swimming pools. The policy includes coverage for damage to contents.

More information about homeowners coverage.

Q. Does my renters insurance cover damage from wind?

A. A renters policy covers personal belongings that are damaged by wind from the storm. Damage from flooding may be covered under some, but not all, renters policies. A separate renters flood policy can be purchased from the NFIP. Damage unrelated to your personal possessions, such as part of the apartment’s structure like the walls and floor, is covered under the building owner’s policy.

More information about renters insurance.

Q. I live in a condo. Am I covered for wind damage to my unit?

A. If you have purchased a co-op or condominium policy for your apartment or townhouse, you are covered for damage to the interior space of your home. The condo association’s insurance might have coverage for your fixtures, wiring or plumbing, or it may only provide coverage from the “bare walls” and not what is behind them. You can obtain a copy of the master policy to better understand what is covered.

More information about co-op/condo insurance.

Q. My car was flooded in the storm. Is it covered?

A. Flood damage to vehicles, including flooding from a storm surge, is covered if you have purchased comprehensive coverage, also known as “other than collision” coverage, which is optional with a standard auto policy. Four out of five drivers choose to buy comprehensive coverage.

More information about auto coverage.

Q. If I make temporary repairs to my home, will I get reimbursed?

A. Yes. Do not wait until a claims adjuster arrives to make temporary repairs that will prevent further damage. Most insurance policies will reimburse you for the expense of making such reasonable and necessary repairs, up to a specified dollar amount. In fact, most policies require you to take these preventive steps. Be sure to save all the receipts from purchases related to your repairs so you can be reimbursed.

Q. The power went out during the storm and food in the refrigerator and freezer were spoiled. Is that covered?

A. Following a hurricane, some insurance companies may include food-spoilage coverage, usually for a set amount that can range from $250 to $500 per appliance. Check with your insurance professional.

Q. I have a percentage deductible for hurricane damage. How do I know what my out-of-pocket costs are?

A. The declarations page of your insurance policy details the exact dollar amount of your hurricane deductible. Whether a hurricane deductible applies to a claim depends on the specific “trigger”, which can vary by state and insurer and may be linked to wind speeds.

More information about deductibles.

Q. Should I file a claim if the damage is less than my deductible?

A. Yes. Sometimes there may be additional damage that becomes evident in the months following a significant storm. Filing a claim, even if the damage total is under your deductible, will protect you in the event further repairs are needed. And if your home suffers damage from more than one storm in a single season, the damage from the first storm may apply toward the deductible amount.

Q. My home was not damaged, but can I file a claim for the large tree that fell in my yard?

A. Homeowners insurance policies do not pay for removal of trees or landscaping debris that did no damage to an insured structure. If a tree hit your home, that damage is covered; if your tree fell on your neighbor’s home, his or her insurance company would pay for the damage. However, if the felled tree was poorly maintained or diseased and you took no steps to take care of it, their insurer may seek reimbursement from you for the damages.

More information about trees and insurance.

Q. My home is uninhabitable. How can I cover temporary living expenses?

A. Most homeowners and renters policies cover additional living expenses?any costs over and above your customary living expenses?when you are displaced from your home by a covered loss (such as wind damage) and need temporary shelter. The amount is generally 20 percent of the total insurance you have on your home. Some insurers pay more than 20 percent; others limit additional living expenses to an amount spent during a specific time period. Keep all your receipts to document your expenditures.

Q. If I evacuated due to the storm, are my evacuation expenses covered?

A. Generally, expenses related to evacuation are only covered if there is also damage to your property. This is because the coverage is part of the property policy.

Q. I’ve heard that Texas has a new law that affects prevents me from filing a lawsuit in a claims dispute. Is that true?

A. No, it is not. Texas law has strong protections for consumers, and those protections remain in place. A law that will effective Sept. 1, 2017 (HB1774) simply requires that an insurance company be given written notice of legal action before a lawsuit is filed. It does not bar any individual from having access to the courts nor does it prevent consumers from seeking legal counsel.

Q. Advertisements and social media traffic are suggesting that I need a lawyer or public adjuster. Do I need to hire someone to help me with my claim?

A. You have a right to hire outside claims help; however, be aware that it comes at a cost as public adjusters are paid a percentage of your claim and legal assistance is often charged at an hourly rate. The insurance premiums you pay include the services of a claims adjuster when it comes time to file a claim. Their job is to serve you and help you recover and rebuild?if you’re not satisfied with the results, you can contact the claims manager. Every natural disaster gives insurers an opportunity to do their best for you, and that should be your expectation.