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.

Money Raised for Hurricane Harvey by Insurance Industry

Courtesy of iii.org

In addition to settling insurance claims the insurance industry is also strongly committed to raising charitable funds for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF), a nonprofit organization that unites the insurance industry in helping communities and enriching lives through grants, volunteer service and leadership, has established a Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund to assist victims affected by this catastrophic storm.

Within 24 hours of establishing the IICF Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund, nearly $80,000 has already been committed by those in the insurance industry. John Vasturia, President, Specialty Markets, Munich Reinsurance America and IICF Board of Governors Chair, noted that, “Through IICF, we are able to very quickly unite our efforts in collecting donations, and distribute to local nonprofits in the Texas communities who will be able to help families across the region in a very real and meaningful way.”

IICF will collect and report on the total of all donations made through this fund, and forward 100% of these insurance industry contributions to the local nonprofits assisting victims in the area, including the American Red Cross and specifically its Hurricane Harvey disaster fund. Donations can made by clicking here.

The USAA Foundation, Inc. has pledged to assist the Hurricane Harvey rescue and recovery efforts with a $1 million grant. In addition to the grant from the Foundation, USAA introduced a donation program for its 32,000 employees worldwide, committing to matching their contributions, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $150,000. That total was met in less than six hours, so the matching grant was boosted Wednesday to $500,000, raising the potential contribution from USAA and its employees to at least $1 million, on top of the $1 million pledge from The Foundation.
Other insurance companies that are raising funds for Hurricane Harvey victims include: The Nationwide Foundation, which is giving $500,000 to Red Cross Disaster Relief and State Farm which is matching employee donations through its Matching Gift Program.

If you work for an insurance company or trade group that is raising funds for Hurricane Harvey victims please let us know about it by emailing marias@iii.org

Insurance After the Storm-Part II

Courtesy of iii.org

Other factors

Compliance with current building codes: Building codes require structures to be built to certain minimum standards. In areas likely to be hit by hurricanes, for example, buildings must be able to withstand high winds. If your home was damaged and it was not in compliance with current local building codes, you may have to rebuild the damaged sections according to current codes.

In some cases, complying with the code may require a change in design or building materials and may cost more. Generally, homeowners insurance policies won’t pay for these extra costs, but insurance companies offer an endorsement that pays a specified amount toward such changes. (An endorsement is an addition to an insurance policy that changes what the policy covers.) Information concerning this coverage is found under ordinance or law in the Section I exclusion part of your policy.

The use of public adjusters: Your insurance company provides an adjuster at no charge. You also may be contacted by adjusters who have no relationship with your insurance company and charge a fee for their services. They are known as public adjusters. If you decide to use a public adjuster to help you in settling your claim, this service could cost you as much as 15 percent of the total value of your settlement. Sometimes after a disaster, the percentage that public adjusters may charge is set by the insurance department. If you do decide to use a public adjuster, first check references and qualifications by contacting the Better Business Bureau and your state insurance department (See back cover for contact information). Also contact the National Association of Independent Insurance Adjusters (www.naiia.com).

Compensation for Damage

Vehicles: If your car was damaged and you have comprehensive coverage in your auto insurance policy, contact your auto insurance company. If your car has been so badly damaged that it’s not worth repairing, you will receive a check for the car’s actual cash value — what it would have been worth if it had been sold just before the disaster. Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com) or other such publications can give you an idea of what your car was worth.

Trees and shrubbery: Most insurance companies will pay up to $500 for the removal of trees or shrubs that have fallen on your home. They will also pay for damage caused to insured structures and their contents up to policy limits, but they won’t pay to remove trees that have fallen causing a mess in your yard.

Water: While homeowners policies don’t cover flood damage, they cover other kinds of water damage. For example, they will generally pay for damage from rain coming through a hole in the roof or a broken window as long as the hole was caused by a hurricane or other disaster covered by the policy. If there is water damage, check with your agent or insurance company representative as to whether it is covered.

The Payment Process

Disasters can make enormous demands on insurance company personnel. Sometimes after a major disaster, state officials ask insurance company adjusters to see everyone who has filed a claim before a certain date. When there are a huge number of claims, the deadline may force some to make a rough first estimate. If the first evaluation is not complete, set up an appointment for a second visit. The first check you get from your insurance company is often an advance. If you’re offered an on-the-spot settlement, you can accept the check right away. Later on, 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 the disaster.

Some insurance companies may require you to fill out and sign a proof of loss form. This formal statement provides details of your losses and the amount of money you’re claiming and acts as a legal record. Some companies waive this requirement after a disaster if you’ve met with the adjuster, especially if your claim is not complicated.

The choice of repair firms is yours. If your home was adequately insured, you won’t have to settle for anything less than you had before the disaster. Be sure the contractor is giving you the same quality materials. Don’t get permanent repairs done until after the adjuster has approved the price. If you’ve received bids, show them to the adjuster. If the adjuster agrees with one of your bids, then the repair process can begin. If the bids are too high, ask the adjuster to negotiate a better price with the contractor. Adjusters may also recommend firms that they have worked with before. Some insurance companies even guarantee the work of firms they recommend, but such programs are not available everywhere. Make sure contactors get the proper building permits.

If you can’t reach an agreement with your insurance company: If you and the insurer’s adjuster can’t agree on a settlement amount, contact your agent or your insurance company’s claim department manager. Make sure you have figures to back up your claim for more money. If you and your insurance company still disagree, your policy allows for an independent appraisal of the loss. In this case, both you and your insurance company hire independent appraisers who choose a mediator. The decision of any two of these three people is binding. You and your insurance company each pay for your appraiser and share the other costs. However, disputes rarely get to this stage.

Some insurance companies may offer a slightly different way of settling a dispute called arbitration. When settlement differences are arbitrated, a neutral arbiter hears the arguments of both sides and then makes a final decision.

How you receive the money: When both the dwelling and the contents of your home are damaged, you generally get two separate checks from your insurance company. If your home is mortgaged, the check for home repairs will generally be made out to 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. The lender gets equal rights to the insurance check to ensure that the necessary repairs are made to the property in which it has a significant financial interest. This means that the mortgage company or bank will have to endorse the check. Lenders generally put the money in an escrow account and pay for the repairs as the work is completed.

You should show the mortgage lender your contractor’s bid and say how much the contractor wants up front to start the job. Your mortgage company may want to inspect the finished job before releasing the funds for payment. If you don’t get a separate check from your insurance company for the contents of your home and other expenses, the lender should release the insurance payments that don’t relate to the dwelling. It should also release funds that exceed the balance of the mortgage. State bank regulators often publish guidelines for banks to follow after a major disaster. Contact state regulatory offices to find out what these guidelines are.

Some construction firms want you to sign a direction to pay form that allows your insurance company to pay the firm directly. The firm then will bill your insurance company directly and attach the form you signed. Make certain that you’re completely satisfied with the repair work and that the job has been completed before signing any forms.

If you have a replacement cost policy for your personal possessions, you normally need to replace the damaged items before your insurance company will pay. If you decide not to replace some items, you will be paid their actual cash value. Your insurance company will generally allow you several months from the date of the cash value payment to replace the items and collect full replacement cost. Find out how many months you are allowed. Some insurance companies supply lists of vendors that can help replace your property. Some companies may supply some replacement items themselves.

After your claim has been settled and the repair work is underway: Take the time to re-evaluate your homeowners insurance coverage. For example, was your home adequately insured? Did you have replacement cost coverage for your personal property? Talk to your insurance agent or company representative about possible changes.

Find out more about filing an insurance claim after a disaster.

Insurance After the Storm-Part I

Courtesy of iii.org

What you need to know about

  • how to file a claim
  • how the claim process works
  • what’s covered and what’s not

First Steps

Contact your agent or company immediately. Find out:

  • Whether the damage is covered under the terms of your policy
  • how long you have to file a claim
  • whether your claim exceeds your deductible (the amount of loss you agree to pay before insurance kicks in)
  • how long it will take to process the claim
  • whether you’ll need estimates for repairs

Make temporary repairs: Take reasonable steps to protect your property from further damage. Save receipts for what you spend and submit them to your insurance company for reimbursement. Remember that payments for temporary repairs are part of the total settlement. So if you pay a contractor a large sum for a temporary repair job, you may not have enough money for permanent repairs. Beware of contractors who ask for a large amount of money up front and contractors whose bids are very low — they might cut corners and do shabby work. Don’t make extensive permanent repairs until the claims adjuster has assessed the damage.

If you need to relocate, keep your receipts: If you need to find other accommodations while your home is being repaired, keep records of your expenses. Homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for the cost of additional living expenses if your home is damaged by an insured disaster.

Prepare for the adjuster’s visits: Your insurance company may send you a proof of loss form to complete or an adjuster may visit your home first. (An adjuster is a person professionally trained to assess the damage.) In either case, the more information you have about your damaged possessions — a description of the item, approximate date of purchase and what it would cost to replace or repair — the faster your claim generally can be settled.

  • To substantiate your loss, prepare an inventory of damaged or destroyed items and give a copy to the adjuster along with copies of any receipts. Don’t throw out damaged items until the adjuster has visited. You should also consider photographing or videotaping the damage. If your property was destroyed or you no longer have any records, work from memory.
  • Identify structural damage to your home and other structures such as a garage, tool shed or in-ground swimming pool. Make a list of everything you want to show the adjuster, for example, cracks in the walls and missing roof tiles. You should also get the electrical system checked. Most insurance companies pay for these inspections.
  • Get written bids from licensed contractors. The bids should include details of the materials to be used and prices on a line-by-line basis. This makes adjusting the claim faster and simpler.
  • Keep copies of the lists and other documents you submit to your insurance company. Also keep copies of whatever paperwork your insurance company gives you and record the names and phone numbers of everyone you speak to.

Flood damage is excluded under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. Flood coverage, however, is available as a separate policy from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few private insurers. The NFIP provides coverage up to $250,000 for the structure of the home and $100,000 for personal possessions. Flood insurance claims should be filed with your homeowners insurance company.

Factors That Determine The Amount Of Settlement You Get

Type of Policy

Replacement Cost and Actual Cash Value: Replacement cost policies provides you with the dollar amount needed to replace a damaged item with one of similar kind and quality without deducting for depreciation (the decrease in value due to age, wear and tear, and other factors). Actual cash value policies pay the amount needed to replace the item minus depreciation.

Suppose, for example, a tree fell through the roof onto your eight-year-old washing machine. With a replacement cost policy, the insurance company would pay to replace the old machine with a new one. If you had an actual cash value policy, the company would pay only a part of the cost of a new washing machine because a machine that has been used for eight years is worth less than its original cost.

Extended and Guaranteed Replacement Cost: If your home is damaged beyond repair, a typical homeowners policy will pay to replace it up to the limits of the policy. If the value of your insurance policy has kept up with increases in local building costs, a similar dwelling can generally be built for an amount within the policy limits.

With an extended replacement cost policy your insurer will pay a certain percentage over the limit to rebuild your home — 20 percent or more, depending on the insurer — so that if building costs go up unexpectedly, you will have extra funds to cover the bill. A few insurance companies offer a guaranteed replacement cost policy that pays whatever it costs to rebuild your home as it was before the disaster. But neither type of policy will pay for more expensive materials than those that were used in the structure that was destroyed.

Mobile Home, Stated Amount: If you own a mobile home, you may have a stated amount policy. With this policy, the maximum amount you receive if your home is destroyed is the sum you agreed to when the policy was issued. If you opt for the stated amount, update your policy annually to make sure that the amount will cover the cost of replacing your mobile home. Check with local mobile home dealers to find out what similar homes now sell for.

Policy limits

Most insurance policies provide adequate coverage because they include an inflation-guard clause to keep up with increases in local building costs. If you have replacement cost coverage, your insurance company will pay the full cost of repairing or replacing the damaged structure with a building of “like kind and quality.” In other words, if you were adequately insured and lived in a three-bedroom ranch before the disaster, your insurance company would pay to build a similar three-bedroom ranch.

Most insurance companies recommend that a dwelling be insured for 100 percent of replacement cost so that you have enough money to rebuild if your home is totally destroyed.

You may not be fully covered, however, if you have made significant improvements on your house, such as enclosing a porch to create another room or expanding your kitchen, without informing your insurance company of the changes at the time.

Temporary living expenses

If you can’t live in your home because of the damage, your insurance company will advance you money to pay for reasonable additional living expenses. The amount available to pay for such expenses is generally equal to 20 percent of the insurance on your home. This amount is in addition to the money for repairs or to rebuild your home. Some insurance companies pay more than 20 percent. Others limit additional living expenses to the amount spent during a certain period of time.

Among the items typically covered are eating out, rent, telephone or utility installation costs in a temporary residence, and extra transportation costs. Insurance policies often discuss additional living expenses under the heading loss of use.

Rebuilding and making repairs

If your home was destroyed, you have several options.

  • You can rebuild a new home on the same site.
  • Depending on state law, you can sell the land and build or buy a house in a different place, even another state.
  • You can decide that you would rather rent.

If you decide not to rebuild, the settlement amount depends on state law, what the courts have said about this matter and the kind of policy you have. Find out from your insurance agent or company representative what the settlement amount will be based on.

Concerning repairs, if you downgrade, for example, replace an expensive wood floor with one using a cheaper product, you are not entitled to the difference in cash.

to be continued…

Do College Students Need Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

With burglaries constituting approximately 50 percent of all on-campus crimes, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, it is more important than ever that college students and their parents review their insurance coverage.

For students who live in a dorm, most personal possessions are covered under their parents’ homeowners or renters insurance policies. However, some home insurance policies may limit the amount of insurance for off-premises belongings to just 10 percent of the total amount of coverage for personal possessions. This means that if the parents have $70,000 worth of insurance for their belongings, only $7,000 would be applicable to possessions in the dorm. Not all insurers impose this type of limit, so check with your insurance professional.

Expensive computer and electronic equipment, sports equipment, and items such as jewelry may also be subject to coverage limits under a standard homeowners policy. If the limits are too low, a special personal property floater or an endorsement can be purchased to cover these items. There are also stand-alone insurance policies for computers and cellphones.

Students and/or their parents may also want to consider purchasing a stand-alone policy specifically designed for students living away at college. This can be an economical way to provide additional insurance coverage for a variety of disasters.

Students who live off-campus are likely not covered by their parents’ homeowners policy and may need to purchase their own renters insurance policy. Your insurance professional can tell you whether your homeowners or renters policy extends to off-campus living situations.

For students going off to college, the I.I.I. recommends the following:

  • Leave valuables at home if possible
    While it may be necessary to take a computer or sports equipment to campus, other expensive items, such as valuable jewelry, luxury watches or costly electronics, should be left behind or kept in a local safety deposit box.
  • Create a “dorm inventory”
    Before leaving home, students should make a detailed inventory of all the items they are taking with them, and revise it every year. Having an up-to-date inventory will help get insurance claims settled faster in the event of theft, fire or other types of disasters.
  • Engrave electronics
    Engrave electronic items such as computers, televisions and mobile devices, such as your smart phone, with your name or other identifying information that can help police track the stolen articles.

The I.I.I. offers the following advice to guard against theft of your personal belongings on campus:

  • Always lock your dorm room door and keep your keys with you at all times, even if you leave briefly. And, not just at night?most dorm thefts occur during the day. Insist your roommates do the same.
  • Don’t leave belongings unattended on campus. Whether you are in class, the library, the dining hall or other public areas, keep book bags, purses and laptops with you at all times. These are the primary areas where property theft occurs.
  • Buy a laptop security cable and use it. A combination lock that needs decoding may be just enough to dissuade a thief.
  • Most campus fires are cooking related so be careful about the types of hot plates or microwaves you to bring to school, and how you use them.

In the event a student is planning to have a car on campus, choose a safe, reliable vehicle and do some comparison shopping to find the best auto insurance rate. You should also check with your own insurance company as it may offer a multi-policy discount. If you decide to keep the student’s car at home, be sure to let your auto insurance company know, as many insurers will give discounts for students who are living at a school at least 100 miles away from home.

Floods and You

Courtesy of iii.org

Watches/warnings:

  • Flood watches are issued when rain is heavy enough to cause rivers to overflow.
  • Flood warnings describe the severity of the situation and indicate when and where the flood will begin.
  • Flash flood watches are issued when heavy rain is occurring or is expected to occur.
  • Flash flood warnings are issued when flooding is occurring suddenly. In the event of flash flooding, move immediately to high ground.
  • Educate your family and yourself about your community’s flood warnings.

Evacuation:

  • Plan an evacuation route.
  • Develop a plan for you and your family to communicate if you are separated when a flood comes.

Protecting Your Property

  • If you are moving into a new home, apartment or business location, make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. Your bank, local officials or insurance representative can inform you if your location is at risk of flooding.
  • Flood insurance is excluded under homeowners and renters policies, but it is covered under the comprehensive section of standard automobile insurance policies and some coverage is available for floods under special commercial insurance policies.
  • Flood insurance for homeowners, renters and businesses is administered through the federal government and can be purchased from an insurance agent or company under contract with the Federal Insurance Administration (FIA), part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Flood insurance is only available where the local government has adopted adequate flood plain management regulations under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Most communities participate in the program.
  • Flood insurance covers direct physical losses from floods and losses resulting from flood-related erosion caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels and accompanied by a severe storm, flash flood, abnormal tide surge or a similar situation which results in flooding. Flood insurance also may cover mudslides.
  • Coverage for the structure and contents of the home are sold separately. Buildings are covered for replacement cost but content coverage is available on an actual cash value basis only.
  • Maintain a supply of emergency materials: plywood, plastic sheeting, nails, hammer, shovels, sandbags, flashlight, batteries, battery-operated radio, first aid kit, medication, sturdy shoes, emergency food and water, cash and credit cards.
  • Install a system to prevent flood water from backing up in sewer drains.
  • Locate switches to turn off gas, electricity and water.
  • Make a home inventory listing all of your possessions to help facilitate the claim filing process if your belongings are damaged or destroyed.

Deductibles & You

Courtesy of iii.org

This should NOT be a surprise: Your home insurance policy has a separate deductible for hurricane damage. It should be common knowledge because it’s been in Florida statutes on insurance contracts at least since 1997. Yet, when the next hurricane hits, there will be some people shocked to find this out when it has been in plain sight for more than 20 years.

Truthfully, it’s in plain sight if you were actually to READ your insurance policy. You’ll find it in two places. On the front of your policy pages, there is this blaring headline in all capital letters:

“THIS POLICY CONTAINS A SEPARATE DEDUCTIBLE FOR HURRICANE LOSSES, WHICH MAY RESULT IN HIGH OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSES TO YOU.”

This sentence above is in 18-point, bold type not because I’m yelling, but because that is what the legislation requires. Big, bold and rather in-your-face.

The second place homeowners are informed of their hurricane deductible is on the declarations page. This is a one-page summary of what you are paying for insurance, and the hurricane deductible amount is spelled out to the penny. For example, if your dwelling is insured for $325,000, and you have a 2 percent hurricane deductible, the amount is $6,500. That is your share of the repair bill from hurricane damage.

And, the logical next question would be?WHY? Here’s why: Without a hurricane deductible, you would be paying more every year for property insurance. Remember, a hurricane can hit any year, and the threat of hurricanes hangs for 6 full months. Having these higher deductibles means you share in the cost to repair any damage in exchange for lower premiums every year that hurricanes don’t hit. With deductibles in place, insurers are more likely to want to offer coverage. Why? Because if the cost of catastrophic claims is shared, then more insurers will consider entering the marketplace, giving customers more choices.

Florida property insurance policies have had a hurricane deductible since shortly after Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992. Andrew was a game-changer, an eye-opener and a truth teller about the risks associated with living in Florida. We shouldn’t be surprised.

Saving Money on Auto Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

  • Before You Buy a Car, Compare Insurance Costs

  • Higher Deductibles Could Mean Lower Premiums

  • Reduce Coverage on Older Cars

  • Buy Your Homeowners and Auto Insurance from the Same Company

  • Maintain a Good Credit History

  • Take Advantage of Low Mileage Discounts

  • Ask About Group Insurance

  • Seek Out Other Discounts

Boats, Insurance & You

Insurance can provide limited coverage for property damage for small boats such as canoes and small sail boats or small power boats with less than 25 mile per hour horse power under a homeowners or renters insurance policy. Coverage is usually about $1,000 or 10 percent of the home’s insured value and generally includes the boat, motor and trailer combined. Liability coverage is typically not included?but it can be added as an endorsement to a homeowners policy. Check with your insurance representative to find out if your boat is covered and what the limits are.

Larger and faster boats such as yachts, and personal watercraft such as jet skis and wave runners require a separate boat insurance policy. The size, type and value of the craft and the water in which you use it factor into how much you will pay for insurance coverage.

For physical loss or damage, coverage includes the hull, machinery, fittings, furnishings and permanently attached equipment as part of either an actual cash value policy or on an agreed amount value basis. These policies also provide broader liability protection than a homeowners policy. But there are distinct differences between the two types of policies.

Actual Cash Value policies pay for replacement costs less depreciation at the time of the loss. In the event of a total loss, used boat pricing guides and other resources are used to determine the vessel’s approximate market value. Partial losses are settled by taking the total cost of the repair less a percentage for depreciation.

Agreed Amount Value basis policies mean that you and your insurer have agreed on the value of your vessel and in the event of a total loss you will be paid that amount. Agreed Amount Value policies also replace old items for new in the event of a partial loss, without any deduction for depreciation.

Physical damage exclusions might include normal wear and tear, damage from insects, mold, animals (such as sharks), zebra mussels, defective machinery or machinery damage.

Boat insurance also covers:

  • Bodily injury?for injuries caused to another person
  • Property damage?for damage caused to someone else’s property
  • Guest passenger liability?for any legal expenses incurred by someone using the boat with the owner’s permission
  • Medical payments?for injuries to the boat owner and other passengers
  • Theft

Most companies offer liability limits that start at $15,000 and can be increased to $300,000. Typical policies include deductibles of $250 for property damage, $500 for theft and $1000 for medical payments. Higher limits may be available. Additional coverage can be purchased for trailers and other accessories. Boat owners may also consider purchasing an umbrella liability policy which will provide additional protection for their boat, home and car.

Boaters should also inquire about special equipment kept on the boat, such as fishing gear, to make sure it is covered and verify that towing coverage is included in the policy.

Boat owners should also inquire about discounts for the following:

  • Diesel powered craft, which are less hazardous than gasoline powered boats as they are less likely to explode
  • Coast Guard approved fire extinguishers
  • Ship-to-shore radios
  • Two years of claims-free experience
  • Multi-policies with the same insurer, such as a car, home or umbrella policy
  • Safety education courses, such as those offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons, or the American Red Cross.

Boat Safety

There are thousands of recreational boating accidents per year. Contributing factors to these accidents include traveling too fast for water or weather conditions, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, failing to follow boating rules and regulations, carelessness and inexperience.

To prevent boating accidents, we offer these safety suggestions:

Care and protection of vessel

  1. Check weather forecasts before heading out.
  2. Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  3. Check engine, fuel, electrical and steering systems, especially for exhaust-system leaks.
  4. Carry one or more fire extinguishers, matched to the size and type of boat. Keep them readily accessible and in condition for immediate use.
  5. Equip the vessel with required navigation lights and with a whistle, horn or bell.
  6. Consider additional safety devices, such as a paddle or oars, a first-aid kit, a supply of fresh water, a tool kit and spare parts, a flashlight, flares and a radio.

Care and protection of crew and guests

  1. Make sure that every person on board the boat wears a life-jacket.
  2. Know and obey marine traffic laws, the “Rules-of-the-Road.” Learn various distress signals.
  3. Keep an alert lookout for other watercraft, swimmers, floating debris and shallow waters.
  4. Pay attention to loading. Don’t overload; distribute the load evenly; don’t stand up or shift weight suddenly in a small boat; and don’t permit riding on the bow, seatbacks or gunwales.
  5. Don’t operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Skippers can obtain free advice and boating-safety courses from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. Upon request, the auxiliary will conduct a Courtesy Marine Examination (CME) on your boat, checking electrical and safety equipment and fuel hoses. Boats meeting safety standards are awarded the CME decal “Seal of Safety.”

Business Income & Severe Weather Events

Courtesy of iii.org

With predictions of an above-average hurricane season issued by Colorado State University this week, businesses need to take measures to prepare and increase their chance of surviving, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Forty percent of businesses do not reopen after a disaster and another 25 percent fail within one year, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). But by taking action now to prepare, businesses can increase their chance of getting back on their feet financially and keeping their doors open.

The I.I.I. and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) recommend the following steps:

Develop a Business Continuity Plan

Having a business continuity plan is vital for companies to prepare for, survive and recover from a hurricane. Use IBHS? free OFB-EZ® (Open for Business) business continuity planning tool to create a plan that focuses on recovering after the initial emergency response. Share your plan with employees, assign responsibilities and offer training so your workforce can collaborate in the recovery of your business. Conduct regular drills to assess and improve response.

Maintain Key Information Offsite

To get your business up and operating as quickly as possible after a disaster, you?ll need to be able to access critical business information. In addition to backing up computer data, keep other critical information offsite such as your insurance policies, banking information and phone numbers of employees, key customers, vendors and suppliers, your insurance professional and others. If you have a back-up site, make sure it?s sufficiently far away so as not to be affected by the same risks that threaten the primary location. Use IBHS? free EZ-PREPTM severe weather emergency preparedness and response planning toolkit with checklists that can be customized for your company to be sure you have a well-organized plan and are ready to respond when disasters occur.

Create a Business Inventory

Include all business equipment, supplies and merchandise?and don?t forget commercial vehicles.

Review Your Insurance Coverage

The time to review your insurance policy is before disaster strikes and you have to file a claim. It is important that your business have both the right amount and type of insurance for its needs and risk profile. There are two types of policies you can buy as a business owner:

A Business Owner Policy (BOP) is commonly used by small businesses. BOP policies combine property and liability coverage in one policy and are usually less comprehensive than a commercial policy.

A Commercial Multi-peril (CMP) policy combines several coverages?such as commercial property, liability, inland marine and commercial auto?into a single policy. It is typically less expensive to buy a CMP policy than to buy the coverages individually.

Opt for Replacement Cost Coverage

Most commercial property policies provide either replacement cost coverage, actual cash value coverage, or a combination of both. Replacement cost coverage will pay to rebuild or repair property, based on current construction costs. Actual cash value coverage will pay to rebuild or replace the property minus depreciation. Depreciation is a decrease in value due to wear and tear or age. If your business is destroyed and you only have actual cash value coverage, you may not be in a position to completely rebuild.

Consider Tenant Coverage

If you rent or lease a building, consider tenant coverage, which will insure your on-premises property, including machinery, furniture and merchandise. The building owner?s policy will not cover your contents.

Don?t Forget About Flood Insurance

Flooding is not covered by standard commercial insurance policies, so consider buying a separate flood policy. If you?re located in a high- to moderate-risk flood zone, you could be protecting your business from devastating financial loss. Commercial flood coverage is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and provides up to $500,000 in building coverage and $500,000 for contents. You can also get coverage through private insurers.

Visit the Business Insurance section of the I.I.I. website for more information.

RELATED LINKS

Facts and Statistics: Catastrophes

Articles: When Disaster Strikes: Preparation, Response and Recovery; Does My Business Need Flood Insurance?

SOURCES:

Colorado State University

Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety

National Flood Insurance Program

National Hurricane Center

Seasonal Hurricane Predictions

Small Business Administration