Dog Bites & Homeowners Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

Almost 90 million dogs are owned as pets in the United States according to a 2017-2018 survey by the American Pet Products Association.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Among children, the rate of dog-bite–related injuries is highest for those 5 to 9 years old. Over half of dog-bite injuries occur at home with dogs that are familiar to us.

Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability legal expenses, up to the liability limits (typically $100,000 to $300,000). If the claim exceeds the limit, the dog owner is responsible for all damages above that amount.

Dog bite liability and homeowners insurance

Some insurance companies will not insure homeowners who own certain breeds of dogs categorized as dangerous, such as pit bulls. Others decide on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether an individual dog, regardless of its breed has been deemed vicious. Some insurers do not ask the breed of a dog owned when writing or renewing homeowners insurance and do not track the breed of dogs involved in dog bite incidents. However, once a dog has bitten someone, it poses an increased risk. In that instance, the insurance company may charge a higher premium, nonrenew the homeowner’s insurance policy or exclude the dog from coverage.

Some insurers are taking steps to limit their exposure to such losses. Some companies require dog owners to sign liability waivers for dog bites, while others charge more for owners of breeds such as pit bulls and Rottweilers and others are not offering insurance to dog owners at all. Some will cover a pet if the owner takes the dog to classes aimed at modifying its behavior or if the dog is restrained with a muzzle, chain or cage.

Homeowners insurance liability claims

  • Homeowners insurers paid out over $686 million in liability claims related to dog bites and other dog-related injuries in 2017, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and State Farm®.
  • An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the I.I.I. found that the number of dog bite claims nationwide increased to 18,522 in 2017 compared to 18,123 in 2016—a 2.2 percent increase.
  • The average cost per claim for the year increased by 11.5 percent. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide was $37,051 in 2017, compared with $33,230 in 2016. The average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 90 percent from 2003 to 2017, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are trending upwards.
  • California continued to have the largest number of claims in the United States, at 2,228 in 2017, an increase from 1,934 in 2016. The state with the second highest number of claims was Florida at 1,345. Florida had the highest average cost per claim at $44,700. The trend in higher costs per claim is attributable not only to dog bites but also to dogs knocking down children, cyclists, the elderly, etc., which can result in injuries that impact the potential severity of the losses.

State and local legislation

Dog owners are liable for injuries their pets cause if the owner knew the dog had a tendency to bite. In some states, statutes make the owners liable whether or not they knew the dog had a tendency to bite; in others, owners can be held responsible only if they knew or should have known their dogs had a propensity to bite. Some states and municipalities have “breed specific” statutes that identify breeds such as pit bulls as dangerous; in others individual dogs can be designated as vicious. At least two states, Pennsylvania and Michigan, have laws that prohibit insurers from canceling or denying coverage to the owners of particular dog breeds. In Ohio, for example, owners of dogs that have been classified as vicious are required to purchase at least $100,000 of liability insurance.

The American Kennel Club reports that while many municipalities have enacted bans on specific breeds, several states have laws barring municipalities and counties from targeting individual breeds.

  • Dog owners’ liability: There are three kinds of law that impose liability on owners:
    1) A dog-bite statute: where the dog owner is automatically liable for any injury or property damage the dog causes without provocation.
    2) The one-bite rule: where the dog owner is responsible for an injury caused by a dog if the owner knew the dog was likely to cause that type of injury—in this case, the victim must prove the owner knew the dog was dangerous.
    3) Negligence laws: where the dog owner is liable if the injury occurred because the dog owner was unreasonably careless (negligent) in controlling the dog.
  • Criminal penalties: On January 26, 2001, two Presa Canario dogs attacked and killed Diane Whipple in the doorway of her San Francisco, California, apartment. Marjorie Knoller, the owner of the dogs, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for keeping a mischievous dog that killed a person. She was sentenced to four years in prison for involuntary manslaughter and was ordered to pay $6,800 in restitution. Her husband, Robert Noel, was convicted on lesser charges but also received a four-year prison sentence. Knoller became the first Californian convicted of murder for a dog’s actions. This was only the third time such charges have been upheld in the United States, the first coming in Kansas in 1997.

Car Insurance Terms-What They Mean

Courtesy of iii.org

Don’t be intimidated by specialized insurance language. Below you’ll find definitions of some of the most common terms used when dealing with auto insurance.

Adjuster

An insurance company employee or contractor who reviews the damages and injuries caused by an accident and okays claims payments.

Bodily injury liability

Usually mandated by state law, this insurance provision covers costs associated with injuries and death that you or another driver causes while driving your car.

Claim

The formal request to an insurer for payment under the terms of your policy.

Collision coverage

Optional coverage that reimburses you for damage to your car that occurs as a result of a collision with another vehicle or other object?e.g., a tree or guardrail?when you’re at fault. While collision coverage will not reimburse you for mechanical failure or normal wear-and-tear on your car, it will cover damage from potholes or from rolling your car.

Comprehensive coverage

Coverage against theft and damage caused by an incident other than a collision, such as fire, vandalism, hail, flood, falling rocks and other events.

Credit-based insurance score

A confidential ranking developed by insurance companies based on your credit history that may be used to determine the cost of your insurance policy. A good credit score?an indication of responsible money management?has been shown to be a good predictor of whether someone is more likely to file an insurance claim.

Deductible

The amount subtracted from an insurance payout that you are responsible for. For instance, if you have a $500 deductible for your collision coverage, and an accident causes $2,000 of damage to your car, you pay $500 and your insurance covers the remaining $1,500. There is no deductible for your liability coverage.

Defensive driving

Driving in a way that reduces that chance of an accident. Defensive driving techniques include maintaining a safe following distance, scanning the road ahead, keeping both hands on the wheel and much more. If you take a defensive driving course, you may be able to get a discount on your auto insurance.

Diminished value

The value of a car after it has been in an accident and repaired. Even though the car may look fine, it is worth less than its value before the accident. If you’re the victim of an accident, you may be able to collect payment for the diminished value of your car, beyond the repair costs.

Distracted driving

Driving your car while distracted is dangerous and often illegal. Texting and using your phone are the most well-known distractions, but fiddling with your radio, looking at a map or GPS system, eating and drinking, talking to passengers and applying makeup also take your eyes off the road?and raise the risk of getting in an accident. Traffic tickets for texting or using your phone, as well as accidents caused by distracted driving, can drive up your insurance rates.

Gap insurance

As soon as you drive a new car off the dealer’s lot, its value begins to depreciate. And if you lease or finance the car, you’ll be responsible for the full amount you still owe should something happen to it, but your collision and comprehensive insurance will only cover the actual market value of the car. Gap insurance covers the difference between these two amounts?what the vehicle is worth and what you owe on it. The coverage can be purchased from the auto dealer or directly from your insurance company. For leased vehicles, gap insurance is usually rolled into the lease payments.

Liability

Your legal obligation to reimburse others for damage or injury that you cause. Nearly every state requires that you have liability insurance for your car so that if you or someone driving your car causes an accident, the victim will receive appropriate compensation.

Medical payments/Personal injury protection (PIP)

Coverage that provides reimbursement for medical expenses for injuries to you or your passengers stemming from an accident where you or someone using your car is at fault. This coverage may also pay lost wages and other related expenses.

OEM and generic auto crash parts

Crash parts are those that form the outside “skin” of a vehicle?such as fenders, hoods and doors panels?and are the most frequently damaged in auto accidents. Replacement parts provided by the manufacturer of your car are called original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts. Parts that are made by another manufacturer are known as generic or aftermarket crash parts and are generally a lower cost, equally safe match for an OEM auto part.

Premium

The cost of your insurance policy, payable annually, semiannually or in monthly installments.

Property damage liability

Insurance coverage that reimburses others for damage that you or another driver operating your car causes to another vehicle or other property, such as a fence, building or utility pole.

Totaled

A car is totaled if the cost of repairs exceeds the car’s value. If your car is totaled and you have comprehensive and/or collision coverage, an insurer will pay you the full market value of your car or the limit of the policy, less your deductible if you are at fault.

Umbrella liability

Extra coverage beyond the limits of your regular liability policies. This will provide an additional layer of protection for your assets in the event you are sued. Your umbrella policy also covers claims that fall under your homeowners insurance policy.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage

Uninsured motorist coverage will reimburse you when an accident is caused by a driver who lacks insurance?or in the case of a hit-and-run. In the case of a serious accident, underinsured motorist coverage will make up the difference between your losses and the coverage limit of the policy held by the driver who causes the accident.

Motorcycle Insurance Coverage

Courtesy of http://www.iii.org/article/motorcycle-insurance. Choosing the right insurance policy is much like choosing the right motorcycle. You want it to fit your needs and lifestyle, but at the same time be within your budget. Although most states require you to carry a minimum amount of liability coverage, other types of coverage are usually optional. Always ask your insurance agent or company representative which laws apply in your state.

In order to find out what coverage is best for you, it is important to understand all the options available.

Liability coverage

Liability insurance covers bodily injury and property damage that you may cause to other people involved in an accident. It doesn’t cover you or your motorcycle. Find out if your coverage includes Guest Passenger Liability, which provides protection in the event that a passenger is injured on the motorcycle. Whether or not this is included depends on the laws of your state and the company issuing the policy.

Collision coverage

Collision insurance covers damage to your motorcycle if you are involved in an accident. Your insurance company pays for damages, minus your deductible, caused when you collide with another vehicle or object. Collision insurance usually covers the book value of the motorcycle before the loss occurred.

Comprehensive coverage

Comprehensive coverage pays for damages caused by an event other than a collision, such as fire, theft or vandalism. However, just like collision coverage, your insurance company will pay for damages, minus your deductible, and will cover only the book value of the motorcycle.

Keep in mind most comprehensive and collision coverages will only cover the factory standard parts on your motorcycle. If you decide to add on any optional accessories such as chrome parts, a custom paint job, trailers or sidecars, you should look into obtaining additional or optional equipment coverage.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage

Uninsured/underinsured Motorist Coverage covers damages to you and your property caused by another driver who either doesn’t have insurance (uninsured) or doesn’t have adequate insurance (underinsured) to cover your damages.

This coverage typically pays for medical treatment, lost wages and other damages. If your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage includes property damage, then your motorcycle would also be covered under the same circumstances. Check with your insurance professional to see if property damage is included or needs to be purchased separately.

Tips for the cost-conscious rider

Many factors can play a role in determining what your insurance costs will be such as your age, your driving record, where you live and the type of motorcycle you own, or being a graduate of a rider-training course.

  • Many companies offer discounts from 10 to 15 percent on motorcycle insurance for graduates of training courses, such as the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) rider course. Riders under the age of 25, usually considered a higher risk, may see some savings by taking this course. It?s also a good idea for cyclists who have already had accidents.
  • Maintaining a good driving record with no violations will also help reduce your premiums.
  • In many northern states, riders may save money by buying a “lay-up” policy. With a lay-up policy, all coverage except comprehensive is suspended during winter months.
  • Find out what discounts your insurance representative offers. Multibike discounts for those insuring more than one bike, organization discounts, if you?re a member of a motorcycle association, and mature rider discounts for experienced riders, are just a few possibilities. Discounts can range anywhere from 10 percent to 20 percent, depending on the company and your state. Availability and qualifications for discounts vary from company to company and state to state.
  • Keep in mind that the type, style (such as a sports bike vs. a cruiser) and age of the motorcycle, as well as the number of miles you drive a year and where you store your bike may also affect how much you pay for your premium.

High Satisfaction Rating from Home Insurance Customers

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About one of every 15 U.S. homeowners insurance policyholders files a claim each year and these claimants are now giving insurers their highest ever satisfaction ratings, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

The J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Property Claims Satisfaction Study gives U.S. home insurers a record score of 859 (on a 1,000-point scale). The industry’s cumulative score stood at 846 in 2016. Five factors are considered when assessing policyholder satisfaction: settlement; first notice of loss; estimation process; service interaction; and repair process.

“Insurers are the nation’s economic first responders and, as such, are continually working to improve how they help Americans recover their lives and businesses in the wake of tragedy and catastrophe,” said Sean Kevelighan, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). “This year’s J.D. Power and Associates survey results are a clear reflection that the industry’s hard work and dedication are delivering the intended results.”

These all-time high claims satisfaction scores are even more remarkable given that incurred losses and loss-adjustment expenses for U.S. property/casualty (P/C) insurers grew by 7.6 percent year-over-year when comparing the first nine months of 2016 to the first nine months of 2015, according to an analysis developed by Dr. Steven Weisbart, the I.I.I.’s chief economist.

Incurred losses reflect the dollar amount of a home insurer’s claim payout whereas a loss adjustment expense is the sum an insurer pays for investigating and settling claims, including the cost of defending a lawsuit in court.

Moreover, Dr. Weisbart noted, catastrophe-related claims through the first nine months of 2016 were already at their highest level since 2012?the year of Superstorm Sandy?and the fourth quarter of 2016 pushed those numbers even higher after insured claim payouts from October 2016’s Hurricane Matthew.

The federal government agreed that 2016 was a volatile, and costly one, estimating 15 separate weather and climate events last year caused more than $1 billion in economic losses, not all of them insured, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“Property and casualty insurers have redoubled their efforts to improve the settlement process and fine-tune their customer interactions, efforts that have been clearly recognized and appreciated by homeowners who experienced significant losses this past year,” J.D. Power said.

The study also noted opportunities for improvement, most notably in water-related and other complex claims that take a long time to settle and that cause significant lifestyle disruption. J.D. Power noted, “Insurers that manage to get the settlement process and customer interaction equation right in these types of disruptive and often catastrophic scenarios are those that raise the bar for the industry.”

The study is based on more than 6,600 responses from homeowner’s insurance customers, and was fielded between January and November 2016.

School & Sports Safety

Courtesy of iii.org

Young people aged 5 to 14 accounted for 51 percent of the football injuries treated in emergency rooms in 2015, according to data from the National Safety Council. This age group accounted for 79 percent of gymnastics injuries, 51 percent of baseball and 40 percent of track and field injuries treated in emergency rooms the same year. (see chart below).

Bicycle crashes

Bicyclist fatalities had been declining steadily since 1975, and fell to a record low of 621 in 2010, according to a report issued by the Governors Highway Safety Association. By 2015, Bicyclist fatalities were up 12.2 percent to 818 compared with 2014. The report, which was compiled with funding from State Farm Insurance, notes that bicyclists have consistently accounted for at least 2 percent of all traffic fatalities, which rose 7.2 percent in 2015. The average age of bicyclists killed in traffic crashes was 45 years old in 2014 and 2015, up from 42 in 2010 and 39 in 2005, based on data from the Fatal Accident Reporting System at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Through 1989, teens between the ages of 16 and 20 had accounted for the greatest number of bicyclist traffic deaths. Eighty-five percent of bicyclist deaths were among males compared with 15 percent for women in 2015. The proportions for injuries were 80 percent for males and 20 percent for females. Warm-weather, large population states had the highest numbers of bicyclist deaths. The GHSA says that Florida, California and Texas accounted for 40 percent of all bicyclist deaths in 2015.

Biking is the third most dangerous sport after basketball, based on estimates of injuries treated in hospital emergency departments compiled by the National Safety Council. In 2015, 488,123 people were treated for injuries sustained while riding bicycles. According to the Breakaway Research Group, 34 percent of Americans, or 103.7 million people between the ages of 3 and older, rode bicycles in 2015. Bicycles are increasingly being used for more than recreation. The percentage of adults who biked to work grew from 0.4 percent in 2005 to 0.6 percent in 2013, according to the Alliance for Biking and Walking. Large cities saw the largest increases in biking to work: the percentage increased from 0.7 percent to 1.2 percent from 2005 to 2013.The FBI reports that 180,123 bicycles were stolen in 2015, down 0.2 percent from 2014. The average value of a stolen bicycle was $444 in 2015.

The report also found that lack of helmet use and alcohol impairment continue to be major contributing factors in bicyclist deaths. In 2012 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate that 17 percent of fatally injured bicyclists were wearing helmets, 65 percent were not and helmet use was unknown for the remaining 18 percent. A large number of fatally injured bicyclists had blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher, the legal definition of alcohol-impaired driving, including 28 percent of those aged 16 and older. The percentage of bicyclists with high BACs ranged from 23 percent to 33 percent during the period 1982 to 2012.

Sports injuries

Basketball was the most dangerous sport in 2014, with 522,817 injuries reported followed by biking, with 502,104 injuries and football, with 396,457 injuries.

The National Safety Council reports that there were 179,188 swimming injuries treated in emergency rooms in 2014. About 42 percent of the injuries involved children between the ages of five and 14. A report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that 174 children between the ages of one and 14 drowned from Memorial Day to Labor Day in 2014. There has been growing concern about the risks of sports-related concussions as lawsuits filed by injured professional football players have generated national headlines. The problem also affects thousands of young people who engage in a variety of sports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2009, an estimated 248,418 children (age 19 or younger) were treated in U.S. emergency departments for sports and recreation-related injuries that included a diagnosis of concussion or traumatic brain injury.

Watercraft accidents

Federal law requires owners of recreational boats and watercraft (non-commercial) to register them. In 2016 there were 11.9 million registered recreational watercraft, about the same number as in 2015. A recreational boating accident must be reported to the U.S. Coast Guard if a person dies or is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid; if damage to the boat or other property exceeds $2,000; if the boat is lost or if a person disappears from the boat. Out of the 4,463 accidents reported in 2016, 684 occurred in Florida. Other states with a high number of accidents were California (386), New York (188), Texas (176) and Maryland (150).

Fatalities increased by 12.0 percent to 701 in 2016 from 626 in 2015. The rate per 100,000 registered watercraft was 5.9, up from 5.3 in 2015. The number of accidents rose in 2016 to 4,463 from 4,158 in 2015, up 7.3 percent. Injuries rose to 2,903 in 2016 from 2,613 in 2015, or 11.1 percent. Property damage totaled $49 million in 2016, up from $42 million in 2015.

The U.S. Coast Guard says that alcohol, combined with typical conditions such as motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray can impair a person’s abilities much faster than alcohol consumption on land. Operators with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above 0.10 percent are estimated to be more than 10 times more likely to be killed in an accident than watercraft operators with zero BAC. Alcohol was a contributing factor in 350 recreational watercraft accidents in 2016 (7.8 percent of all accidents), accounting for 133 deaths (19.0 percent of all deaths) and 335 injuries (11.5 percent of all injuries). Other primary contributing factors were operator inexperience, resulting in 62 deaths; and operator inattention accounting for 45 deaths.

 

 

Homeowners & Wildfires

of iii.org

Fire plays an important role in the life of a forest, clearing away dead wood and undergrowth to make way for younger trees but the risk wildfires pose to people and property is growing as more people move into forested areas once largely uninhabited. These areas, known as the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI), contain about 44 million houses in the lower 48 states, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Rising temperatures are also believed to contribute to large, destructive blazes. Warmer weather contributes to wildfire conditions in several ways: dryer and more combustible vegetation, more frequent lightning strikes, an extended fire season; and more intense winds.

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences researchers have concluded that by 2050 the number of wildfires in the West could rise by 50 percent, and across the U.S. the number would double.

Insured wildfire losses

Damage caused by fire and smoke are covered under standard homeowners, renters and business owners insurance policies and under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy. Water or other damage caused by fire fighters to extinguish the fire is also covered under these policies. In California, the California FAIR Plan covers residential and commercial properties located in brush and wildfire areas. Properties in those areas are subject to higher rates due to increased risk of fire.

Causes of wildfires

As many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, negligently discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson. The remaining 10 percent are started by lightning or lava.

Wildfire prevention and mitigation

Researchers are discovering that embers blown by the wind during wildfires cause most of the fires that burn homes. Also, homes that are less than 15 feet apart are more likely to burn in clusters. In such cases, fire is often spread by combustible fences and decks connected to houses, a study by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) found.

Among the preventive features recommended in the IBHS study were noncombustible siding, decking and roofing materials; covered vents; and fences not connected directly to the house. In addition, combustible structures in the yard such as playground equipment should be at least 30 feet away from the house and vegetation 100 feet away.

Properties at risk for wildfires

According to Verisk?s 2017 Wildfire Risk Analysis 4.5 million U.S. homes were identified at high or extreme risk of wildfire, with more than 2 million in California alone.

Charts and graphs

Total Potential Exposure To Wildfire Damage By Risk Category, 2014 (1)

($ billions)

State Low Moderate High Very high
Arizona $9.64 $0.98 $1.76 $1.57
California 75.84 61.92 89.35 16.10
Colorado 18.63 11.53 14.58 13.91
Idaho 9.20 5.56 3.71 2.62
Montana 14.63 4.43 2.29 2.40
Nevada 4.24 5.19 4.57 0.16
New Mexico 11.65 4.62 7.07 2.46
Oklahoma 31.92 16.77 0.03 0.00
Oregon 8.24 9.49 11.91 3.20
Texas 59.53 147.68 48.26 6.33
Utah 2.85 3.93 0.77 0.01
Washington 84.07 18.08 2.88 0.51
Wyoming 3.68 2.62 0.49 0.33
Total, states shown $331.27 $292.81 $187.66 $49.61

(1) Reconstruction value of single-family residences at risk.

Source: CoreLogic, Inc., a data and analytics company.

View Archived Tables

Top 10 Most Wildfire Prone States, 2017

By households By percent
of households
Rank State Households at high
or extreme risk
from wildfires (1)
Rank State Percent of households
at high or extreme
risk from wildfires
1 California 2,044,800 1 Montana 28%
2 Texas 715,300 2 Idaho 26
3 Colorado 366,200 3 Colorado 17
4 Arizona 234,600 4 California 15
5 Idaho 171,200 5 New Mexico 14
6 Washington 154,900 6 Utah 14
7 Oklahoma 152,900 7 Wyoming 14
8 Oregon 148,800 8 Oklahoma 9
9 Utah 133,100 9 Oregon 9
10 Montana 133,000 10 Arizona 8

(1) Number of households is based on data from the 2010 U.S. Census.

Source: Verisk Insurance Solutions ? Underwriting and Verisk Climate units of Verisk Analytics®.

View Archived Tables

Wildfire Losses In The United States, 2007-2016 (1)

(2016 $ millions)

(1) Adjusted for inflation by Munich Re based on the Consumer Price Index.

Source: © 2017 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE.

View Archived Graphs

Natural Catastrophe Losses In The United States, 2015 (1)

($ millions)

Event Number of relevant events (2) Fatalities Overall losses Insured losses (3)
Severe thunderstorm 37 114 $13,400 $9,600
Winter storms and cold waves 11 98 4,700 3,500
Flood, flash flood 12 86 3,800 1,100
Earthquake and geophysical 0 0 minor minor
Tropical cyclone 2 5 100 60
Wildfire, heat waves and drought 19 14 4,400 1,900
Other 4 7 minor minor
Total 85 324 $26,400 $16,100

(1) As of February 2016.
(2) Events that have caused at least one fatality or losses of $3 million or more.
(3) Based on property losses including, if applicable, agricultural, offshore, marine, aviation and National Flood Insurance Program losses and may differ from data shown elsewhere.

Source: Munich Re NatCatSERVICE; Property Claim Services®, a unit of ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® business. © 2016 Munich Re, NatCatSERVICE.

View Archived Tables

Top 10 States For Wildfires Ranked By Number Of Fires And By Number Of Acres Burned, 2016

Rank State Number of fires Rank State Number of acres burned
1 Texas 9,300 1 Oklahoma 767,780
2 California 7,349 2 California 560,815
3 Georgia 5,086 3 Alaska 496,467
4 North Carolina 4,007 4 Idaho 361,649
5 Alabama 3,923 5 Texas 356,680
6 Florida 3,067 6 Kansas 349,829
7 Missouri 2,610 7 Arizona 308,245
8 Arizona 2,288 8 Washington 293,717
9 Tennessee 2,165 9 Nevada 265,156
10 Montana 2,026 10 Oregon 219,509

Source: National Interagency Fire Center.

View Archived Tables

Top 10 Costliest Wildland Fires In The United States (1)

($ millions)

Estimated insured loss
Rank Date Name, Location Dollars when occurred In 2016 dollars (2)
1 Oct. 20-21, 1991 Oakland Hills Fire, CA $1,700 $2,746
2 Oct. 21-24, 2007 Witch Fire, CA 1,300 1,488
3 Oct. 25-Nov. 4, 2003 Cedar Fire, CA 1,060 1,362
4 Oct. 25-Nov. 3, 2003 Old Fire, CA 975 1,253
5 Nov. 28-30, 2016 Great Smoky Mountains Fire, TN 938 938
6 Sep. 12-14, 2015 Valley Fire, CA 921 933
7 Nov. 2-3, 1993 Topanga Fire, CA 375 578
8 Sep. 4-9, 2011 Bastrop County Complex Fire, TX 530 572
9 Oct. 27-28, 1993 Laguna Canyon Fire, CA 350 540
10 Jun. 24-28, 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire, CO 450 477

(1) Property coverage only for catastrophic fires. Effective January 1, 1997, ISO’s Property Claim Services (PCS) unit defines catastrophes as events that cause more than $25 million in insured property damage and that affect a significant number of insureds and insurers. From 1982 to 1996, PCS used a $5 million threshold in defining catastrophes. Before 1982, PCS used a $1 million threshold. Does not include wildfires in 2017.
(2) Adjusted for inflation through 2016 by ISO using the GDP implicit price deflator.

Source: The Property Claim Services® (PCS®) unit of ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® company

Protecting Small Businesses from Cyberattack

Courtesy of iii.org
More than half of U.S. small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) experienced a cyberattack within the past year, yet only 14 percent of businesses felt prepared and protected, according to a recent white paper from the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

The white paper, Protecting Against #Cyberfail: Small Business and Cyber Insurance, examines how insurers are addressing the threat cyberattacks and data breaches pose to SMBs through a combination of innovative insurance products, risk management techniques and employee training.

“Insurers foresee substantial growth coming from the SMB segment, as these companies become aware of the possibilities of liability, especially a breach and resulting response costs arising out of the possession of private data,” said Sean Kevelighan, chief executive officer, I.I.I.

The vast majority of cyber insurance claims involved the loss, exposure, or misuse of sensitive personal data. About half (48 percent) of the data breaches of U.S. small businesses in 2016 were caused by either a negligent employee or contractor, according to the Ponemon Institute.
U.S. insurers reported collecting $1.35 billion in direct premiums written for cyber insurance in 2016, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Stand-alone cyber insurance policies accounted for $921 million of that total (68 percent), while the balance came primarily from endorsements on either a small commercial or businessowners policy (BOP).

Typical cyber-related policies cover the costs arising from either a cyberattack or a data breach, such as responding to lawsuits, repairing damaged infrastructure, and paying the ‘ransom’ demanded by cyber extortionists, among other potential exposures, such as business interruption expenses.

“Creating an affordable product that SMBs will be willing to buy is a key component in the insurance offering. Since different industry sectors represent different levels of exposure, pricing will vary depending on the type of SMB,” the white paper, co-authored by James Lynch, the I.I.I.’s chief actuary, and the I.I.I.’s Claire Wilkinson, a consultant, states.

The I.I.I. has a full library of educational videos on its YouTube Channel.

Home-Based Business & Insurance

Courtesy of iii.orgWhether you’re running a part-time, seasonal or full-time business from your home, you’ll want to carefully consider your risks and insurance needs. Starting a business—even at home—can be a challenging venture, and having the right insurance can provide a financial safety net and peace of mind.

Your insurance choices should, in part, be based on the type of business you operate. For instance, if you’re a sole practitioner home-based accountant, you’ll have very different insurance needs than your neighbor who runs a childcare business. When considering insurance for your business, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What type of business do I run? What are the potential risks faced by your type of business?
  • What is the value of my business property? Do you have expensive equipment, such as cameras or commercial printers? Do you stock valuable business inventory, such as gemstones?
  • Does my business have employees?
  • Do customers or contractors visit my business at my home?
  • Do I use my car or other vehicles in the course of my business operations?
  • Does my business store customers’ financial and personal information on a computer or through a cloud computing service?

The answers to these questions will guide which types of insurance to purchase—and how much coverage you’ll need. For your home-based business, the main types of insurance to consider include the following:

Property and liability insurance

Depending on the nature of your home-based business, you’ll need insurance to protect the value of your business property from loss due to theft, fire or other insured perils. You’ll also need liability protection to cover costs if someone is injured as a result of visiting your business or using your product or service. Your homeowners insurance may provide some protection for your business, but it may not be sufficient. Options for property and liability insurance for home-based businesses include:

  • Adding an “endorsement” to your homeowners policy
  • Stand-alone home-based business insurance policies
  • A Business Owners Policy—or BOP—which combines several types of coverage

Business vehicle insurance

Your personal auto insurance may provide coverage for limited business use of your car. But if your business owns vehicles or your personal vehicle is primarily used for business purposes, you’ll need business vehicle insurance.

Workers compensation insurance

If you have employees, you’ll want to strongly consider purchasing workers compensation insurance to cover costs if an employee is hurt on the job. Workers compensation insurance provides wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course of employment, in exchange for relinquishing the right to sue the employer. In some states, workers compensation insurance is mandatory, so be sure to check your state’s workers compensation website for local requirements.

Other types of insurance may be suitable for your home-based business as well. Your insurance professional can help you evaluate your needs and select insurance to meet your budget.

Insurance Options for Valuable Jewelry

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A standard homeowners policy includes coverage for jewelry and other precious items such as watches and furs. These items are covered for losses caused by all the perils included in your policy such as fire, windstorm, theft and vandalism.

However, there are special limits of liability for certain valuable items, such as the theft of jewelry. To keep coverage affordable, because jewelry can be easily stolen, the standard policy has a relatively low limit of liability for theft—generally about $1,500. This means that the insurer will not pay more than the amount specified in the policy for any given piece of jewelry or other valuable item.

If you own valuable jewelry, furs, collectibles or other items that would be difficult to replace, there are two ways you can increase coverage:

  • Raise the limit of the liability. This is the less expensive option; however, the amounts are still limited for both individual pieces and overall losses. For example, limit to a claim for the loss of an individual piece could be $2,000, with the overall limit at $5,000.
  • Purchase a floater policy and “schedule” your individual valuables. While more costly, this option offers the broadest protection for valuables. Floaters cover losses of any type, including those your homeowners insurance policy will not cover, such as accidental losses—say, dropping your ring down the kitchen sink drain or leaving an expensive watch in a hotel room. Before purchasing a floater, the items covered must be professionally appraised; you can ask your insurance professional to recommend a reputable appraisal firm.

 

Next steps: Don’t know what you own? Here are good reasons to take a home inventory.

If You Need to a Locate Life Insurance Policy

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Locating life insurance documents for a deceased relative can be a daunting task—for one thing, as of this moment there are no national databases of all life insurance policies. However, with a little sleuthing, you can successfully navigate the paper trail.

Here are some strategies to help simplify your search.

1. Look for insurance related documents

Search through files, bank safe deposit boxes and other storage places to see if there are any insurance related documents. Also, check address books for the names of any insurance professionals or companies—an agent or company who sold the deceased their auto or home insurance may know about the existence of a life insurance policy.

2. Contact financial advisors

Present or prior attorneys, accountants, investment advisors, bankers, business insurance agents/brokers and other financial professionals might have information about the deceased’s life insurance policies.

3. Review life insurance applications

The application for each policy is attached to that policy. So if you can find any of the deceased’s life insurance policies, look at the application—will have a list of any other life insurance policies owned at the time of the application.

4. Contact previous employers

Former employers maintain records of past group policies.

5. Check bank statements

See if any checks or automated payments have been made out to life insurance companies over the years.

6. Check the mail

For the year following the death of the policyholder, look for premium notices or dividend notices. If a policy has been paid up, there will no notice of premium payments due; however, the company may still send an annual notice regarding the status of the policy or notice of a dividend.

7. Review income tax returns

Look over the deceased’s tax returns for the past two years to see if there is interest income from and interest expenses paid to life insurance companies. Life insurance companies pay interest on accumulations on permanent policies and charge interest on policy loans.

8. Contact state insurance departments

Twenty-nine state insurance departments offer free search services to residents looking for lost policies. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has a “Life Insurance Company Location System” to help you find state insurance department officials who can help to identify companies that might have written life insurance on the deceased. To access that service, go to the NAIC’s Life Insurance Company Location System.

9. Check with the state’s Unclaimed Property Office

If a life insurance company knows that an insured client has died but can’t find the beneficiary, it must turn the death benefit over to the state in which the policy was purchased as “unclaimed property.” If you know (or can guess) where the policy was bought, you can contact the state comptroller’s department to see if it has any unclaimed money from life insurance policies belonging to the deceased. A good place to start is the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administration.

10. Contact a private search service

Several private companies will, for a fee, assist you with the search for a lost life insurance policy. They will contact insurance companies on your behalf to find out if the deceased was insured. This service is often provided through a websites.

11. Might the policy have originated in Canada?

If you think the policy might have been purchase in Canada, try contacting the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association for information.

12. Search the MIB database

There is no central database of policy documents, but there is a database of all applications for individual life insurance processed since January 1, 1996. (nb: There is a fee for each search and many searches are not successful; a random sample of searches found only one match in every four attempts.) For more information, go to MIB’s Consumer Protection page.