Tax Time & Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

At tax time people are looking to find every possible deduction they can?so what about writing off your home or auto insurance premiums? The answer mostly comes down to one easy question: personal or business?

If you’re buying personal coverage for your home, car or another purpose, the Internal Revenue Service considers it a regular living expense, which isn’t any more deductible than buying toothpaste or kitty litter.

If you’re in business for yourself?even if it’s just moonlighting?the answer may be different. And if you participate in the “gig economy” (e.g. renting your home on Airbnb or driving for Uber) you also can deduct some part of those costs against your business income?as long as you’re also willing to declare the money you’re earning as income.

Deducting Your Premiums

It takes some extra effort to directly deduct either your auto or home insurance payments on your taxes. First, you’ll have to itemize and fill out an entire Form 1040, not the abbreviated 1040 A or the quickie 1040 EZ. If you typically only take the standard deduction on your taxes, you may not have enough other items to write off in order to make this worthwhile. You’ll also have to file Schedule C Profit or Loss From Business. Second, to maximize your deductions you’ll need to calculate how you’re going to claim your insurance premiums?for both auto and home deductions you have the option of using a simplified method or calculating your actual insurance expenditure.

Auto

The IRS allows for a simplified method of deducting the business use of your car or other vehicles, at 54 cents per mile. That’s designed to cover payments, fuel, repairs, depreciation, maintenance and insurance costs. To take your actual expenses, you must calculate the percentage of total car costs for the year based on the number of total miles driven vs. miles driven for business.

Home

For homeowners, the simplified home office deduction is $5 per square foot for the space that’s dedicated only to office use, up to a maximum of 300 square feet, or $1,500.

The more complicated method is to add up all your home-related expenses?mortgage payments, maintenance, property tax, insurance, utilities and so on?and then deduct the percentage of total space in the home occupied by the home office space. So, if all your home expenses for the year totaled $8,000, that 96-square-foot office in a 2,000-square-foot home would allow you to deduct $384. Of course, you’ll need to have good records of all the expenses.

Are Insurance Payments Taxable?

Insurance payouts you receive after damage to your home or an accident involving your car are generally not taxable unless you’ve come out way ahead financially. Generally, a payment to reimburse you for repairs or replacement isn’t going to be taxable unless the payment exceeds what you originally paid for the property, an unlikely situation since most things lose value over time rather than gaining it. And, if you receive dividends from a mutual insurance company, those aren’t taxable unless they total more than the insurance premiums you paid to that company during the year.

On the other hand, if there is a really big gap between what your insurer paid out and your actual financial damage, you might be able to take a deduction for the loss. Deductions on the Casualties and Thefts schedule can be written off only to the extent that they exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income, minus $100 and any insurance payments. Your adjusted gross income, or AGI, is your taxable income after tax credits, exemptions and deductions?the amount of money you actually pay tax on. If your household made $80,000 in 2016, and your AGI was $60,000, you’d need a loss of more than $6,100 before you could deduct a single dime. Even then, the amount is limited to the part of the loss that’s more than $6,100 so you would need to have a significant loss to be able to write anything off..

These are both fairly rare and complex situations that should be reviewed with a financial professional.

Insurance Fraud and You

Courtesy of iii.org

The cost of insurance fraud is a cost all policyholders wind up paying. Consider that fraud adds about $34 billion each year to the property/casualty insurance sector?s incurred losses in the U.S. That equates to about 10 percent of the cost of insurance. The victims of this fraud are?..everyone.

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater heads the state?s Bureau of Insurance Fraud, which consists of 117 sworn officers plus support staff. He?s been championing fraud awareness and recently published a newsletter with a story about an Orange County man who paid someone to torch his car. This person filed an insurance claim, got paid, got found out ? and got jail time. The newsletter said the arson claim cost the insurance company $10,000, and it may cost the perpetrator up to 20 years in jail.

The state has a fraud tip line: 1-800-378-0445. There is also an online form for reporting fraud. We?re in this fight against fraud together.

How to FInd a Lost Life Insurance Policy

Courtesy of iii.org

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 Books, Statements and Canceled Checks

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

6. Check the Mail for a 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 the Deceased’s Income Tax Returns for the Past Two Years

Look for 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 Service That Will Search for “Lost Life Insurance”

Several private companies will, for a fee, contact insurance companies on your behalf to find out if the deceased was insured. This service is often provided through their websites.

11. Do You Think the Policy Might Have Been Bought in Canada?

If so, you try contacting the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association for information.

12. Search the MIB database

As we had said, there’s no 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.

Insurance Providers Given High Satisfaction Rating

Courtesy of iii.org

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.

A New Career in Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org There are more than a half-million professionals employed within the U.S. property/casualty insurance market. And, if you ask many of them how they got into the industry, most will call it a lucky break. My such stroke of luck occurred decades ago. I was working for a real estate developer, the housing market took a(nother) crash, so I needed to find work. A survey of the marketplace introduced the tremendous opportunities in the insurance field and brought me a wonderful, rewarding career. I highly recommend it!

The insurance field brings a meaningful job. This is an industry that helps protect people and their finances. Insurance makes things happen. You need it to drive a car, build a home (or rebuild one after a disaster), to leave loved ones financially secure, to borrow money to build a business ? and so on. Check out InsureMyPath for insight into the profession and a review of the types of career roles.

For a student considering a college curriculum, there are universities with a risk management and insurance curriculum throughout the U.S. Among them is the insurance program at Florida State University.

What do young professionals think of the insurance field? The view themselves as “secret saviors” because they help people rebuild after disaster. There are a lot of jobs, and room for self-development and advancement. Join us!

Distracted Driver Facts, Continued

Courtesy of iii.org

BACKGROUND

Cellphones play an integral role in our society. However, the convenience they offer must be judged against the hazards they pose. Their use contributes to the problem of inattentive driving, which also includes talking, eating, putting on make up and attending to children.

As many as 40 countries may restrict or prohibit the use of cellphones while driving. Countries reported to have laws related to cellphone use include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Botswana, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe. Most countries prohibit the use of hand-held phones while driving.

Supporters of restrictions on driving while using a cellphone say that the distractions associated with cellphone use while driving are far greater than other distractions. Conversations using a cellphone demand greater continuous concentration, which diverts the driver’s eyes from the road and his mind from driving. Opponents of cellphone restrictions say drivers should be educated about the effects of all driver distractions. They also say that existing laws that regulate driving should be more strictly enforced.

Earlier Studies: Over the past decade numerous studies have been conducted on driver inattention, in particular focusing on the use of cellphones. Below is a summary of some these studies.

Motorists who use cellphones while driving are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, according to a study of drivers in Perth, Australia, conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The results, published in July 2005, suggest that banning hand-held phone use will not necessarily improve safety if drivers simply switch to hand-free phones. The study found that injury crash risk didn’t vary with type of phone.

Many studies have shown that using hand-held cellphones while driving can constitute a hazardous distraction. However, the theory that hands-free sets are safer has been challenged by the findings of several studies. A study from researchers at the University of Utah, published in the summer 2006 issue of Human Factors, the quarterly journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, concludes that talking on a cellphone while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk, even if the phone is a hands-free model. An earlier study by researchers at the university found that motorists who talked on hands-free cellphones were 18 percent slower in braking and took 17 percent longer to regain the speed they lost when they braked.

A September 2004 study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that drivers using hand-free cellphones had to redial calls 40 percent of the time, compared with 18 percent for drivers using hand-held sets, suggesting that hands-free sets may provide drivers with a false sense of ease.

A study released in April 2006 found that almost 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds of the event. The study, The 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the NHTSA, broke new ground. (Earlier research found that driver inattention was responsible for 25 to 30 percent of crashes.) The newer study found that the most common distraction is the use of cellphones, followed by drowsiness. However, cellphone use is far less likely to be the cause of a crash or near-miss than other distractions, according to the study. For example, while reaching for a moving object such as a falling cup increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by nine times, talking or listening on a hand-held cellphone only increased the risk by 1.3 times.

Employer and Manufacturer Liability: Although only a handful of high-profile cases have gone to court, employers are still concerned that they might be held liable for accidents caused by their employees while driving and conducting work-related conversations on cellphones. Under the doctrine of vicarious responsibility, employers may be held legally accountable for the negligent acts of employees committed in the course of employment. Employers may also be found negligent if they fail to put in place a policy for the safe use of cellphones. In response, many companies have established cellphone usage policies. Some allow employees to conduct business over the phone as long as they pull over to the side of the road or into a parking lot. Others have completely banned the use of all wireless devices.

In an article published in the June 2003 edition of the North Dakota Law Review, attorney Jordan Michael proposed a theory of cellphone manufacturer liability for auto accidents if they fail to warn users of the dangers of driving and talking on the phone at the same time. The theory holds that maker liability would be similar to the liability of employers who encourage or demand cellphone use on the road. Holding manufacturers liable would cover all persons who drive and use cellphones for personal calls. Michael notes that some car rental agencies have already placed warnings on embedded cellphones in their cars.

Are You Covered in the Case of a Natural Disaster?

Courtesy of iii.org. Homeowners and businesses in California’s Butte, Sutter and Yuba counties who have flood insurance will be covered if the Lake Oroville Dam’s auxiliary spillway fails, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). Revised forecasts call for about 10 inches of rain heading to the area according to the LA Times.

Roughly 50,047 single- and multi-family residential homes could be damaged with an estimated reconstruction cost value of $13.3 billion if the Oroville Dam in California were to fail completely, according to new data analysis from CoreLogic that included the six primary counties in that area.

“The potential for flooding poses a significant threat to life and property in these northern California counties and forced the evacuation of almost 200,000 of residents,” said Janet Ruiz, the I.I.I.’s California Representative. “Standard homeowners, renters and business insurance policies do not cover flood-caused damage. A separate flood insurance policy is needed.” Lake Oroville Dam is in Butte County.

Flood insurance is available from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and a few private insurance companies. NFIP policies have a 30-day waiting period before the coverage is activated. Excess flood insurance policies are also available from some private insurers if additional coverage is needed above and beyond the basic FEMA NFIP policy. To learn more about flood insurance, visit the FloodSmart.gov.

If your home or business is near a river, lake, stream, creek, dam or other body of water, the I.I.I. recommends taking these three steps in order to assess your property’s flood risks.

  • Contact your insurance professional. Take the time to ask questions and be sure you understand all of your insurance options. It will help you make informed decisions about your insurance coverage.
  • Prepare an emergency plan. The I.I.I.’s free mobile app, Know Your Plan, makes it easy to be ready when disaster strikes. Preparedness information is also available from FEMA’s Ready.gov and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Weather Ready Nation.
  • Conduct a home inventory. Documenting your belongings will help you buy the right amount, and type, of insurance. A home inventory also makes claim filing easier and can be used to document financial losses when filing tax returns or applying for post-disaster financial assistance. Using the I.I.I.’s Know Your Stuff app will ensure you have an updated home inventory, accessible anywhere, any time.

Insurance & Wildfires Part 2

PART2

Courtesy of iii.org.

Condo Insurance

Q. There is damage to my kitchen cabinets and my clothes as well as the roof and elevator of the building. Just who is responsible?

A. Usually, your own condominium insurance policy provides coverage for your personal possessions, structural improvements to your apartment and additional living expenses.

There is also a “master policy” provided by the condo/co-op board which covers the common areas you share with others in your building like the roof, basement, elevator, boiler and walkways.

Sometimes the association is responsible for insuring the individual condo or co-op units, as they were originally built, including standard fixtures. The individual owner, in this case, is only responsible for alterations to the original structure of the apartment, like remodeling the kitchen or putting in a new bathtub. Sometimes this may include not only improvements you make, but also those made by previous owners.

In other situations, the condo association is responsible only for insuring the bare walls, floor and ceiling. The owner must insure kitchen cabinets, built-in appliances, plumbing, wiring, bathroom fixtures etc. Your association’s bylaws and/or property lease will determine who is responsible for what.

If you have unit assessment coverage, if will reimburse you for your share of an assessment charged to all unit owners as a result of windstorm damage. For instance, if there is windstorm damage in the lobby, all the unit owners are charged the cost of repairing the loss.

Business Insurance

Q. Will my business be covered for property damage?

A. The typical business owner’s policy covers damage due to wind, wind-driven rain and fire. So if your business has been damaged or destroyed by one of these perils, your insurance company will pay to have your business repaired or rebuilt. Flood damage is usually excluded or very limited unless you have purchased flood coverage from the NFIP or a private insurer.

Q. My business is shut down. Will my insurance cover lost revenue? If so, for how long?

A. Business income, or business interruption, insurance (BI) covers the profits a business would have earned, based on its own financial records, had the disaster not occurred. The policy covers additional operating expenses incurred as a result of the disaster such as the extra expense of operating out of a temporary location, even though business activities have come to a temporary halt.

Reimbursement under business interruption insurance is usually triggered by some kind of damage to the property where the business is conducted and only when the damage is the result of a covered peril such as fire. Evacuation orders do NOT trigger BI coverage. Acts of “civil authority” which preclude a business from reopening can trigger business interruption coverage if the declaration was the result of a covered peril. Generally, there is a deductible either in a flat dollar amount or a waiting time. If it is a waiting time, it is typically 24 to 72 hours, meaning that payments do not begin until the business has been disrupted for one to three days.

Most business interruption forms do not include coverage for perils such as emergency evacuation by civil authority or a major utility disruption, unless they were added by endorsement. Typically, when business interruption insurance is purchased, the timeframe for coverage is a year. The overall cost of BI is determined by the amount of coverage required during the period specified.

Q. How am I going to be able to rebuild my business and afford the cost of keeping the business going at another location?

A. If you have business income coverage, it will reimburse you for lost profits and continue fixed expenses during the time that the business must stay closed while the premises are being restored. If you have ordinance or law coverage it will help pay for the extra costs of tearing down the structure and rebuilding it.

Q. I’ve had so many extra expenses beyond my normal operating expenses. What am I going to do?

A. If you have extra expense insurance, it will reimburse your company for what it spends, over and above normal operating expenses, to relocate to avoid having to shut down during the restoration period. As with business income insurance, the price of extra expense insurance varies with the industry and the likelihood of disaster-related damage.

Life Insurance

Q. My wife was killed in the fires. There are so many expenses. Who is going to take care of my children when I go to work? A. Life insurance benefits can be used for any purpose, including paying funeral expenses and child care costs.

Q. I’ve been paying for years for life insurance that has a cash value. Can I borrow that cash value or surrender the contract to get at that money? Who can help me with this? A. Borrowing and policy surrender are available. Borrowing would be the preferred choice because the death benefit stays in effect (minus the amount borrowed), but this is a loan that must eventually be repaid. If repayment is unlikely, they’re probably better off surrendering the policy for the cash. Ideally, they should discuss this with the agent who sold them the policy, or with someone in the life insurer’s customer service division, to place this option in context with other cash-raising options.

Other Questions

Q. I don’t have a copy of my policy, a home inventory or any documentation. What should I do?

A. Contact your insurance professional as soon as you are able. Your insurance company may send you a claim form known as 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.

Q. Will I need to obtain estimates for the repairs or will the adjuster do this for me?

A. Ask your insurance agent professional about requirements.

Q. Is there a time limit for filing a claim?

A. Insurance policies general place a time limit on filing claims which vary from state to state and company to company. Check with your insurer to see what the time limits are.

Q. What can I do if I am having trouble settling my claim?

A. If you are dissatisfied with how your insurance company is handling your claim, you have several options: talk to the agent or company representative who sold you the policy and let the agent know you are dissatisfied; contact the company claims manager and provide a written explanation of your problem with copies of supporting documentation; contact your state insurance department; consider mediation if you cannot reach an agreement with the company directly.

FAQ Wildfires Part 1

Courtesy of iii.org. After a wildfire, people may have questions about their insurance coverage. The Insurance Information Institute offers answers to some of these basic questions.

Homeowners Coverage

Q. If my house burns down, will my insurance company pay to have it rebuilt?

A. The typical homeowners policy covers damage due to wind, fire and lightning. So if your home has been completely destroyed by a fire or if the roof has been burned, your insurance company will pay to have your home rebuilt or the roof replaced. It will also pay if flames and smoke have damaged any other part of your home.

Q. I know my homeowners policy covers my house. Does it cover the contents of my home and my garage?

A. Yes. In addition to paying for damage to the dwelling, homeowners policies cover other structures on the premises, such as a garage or tool shed, as well as damage to your furniture, clothes, appliances and other personal possessions up to the limits of your policy.

Q. My home has been so severely damaged that it is no longer fit to live in. We can live with friends for a week or two, but after that, I don’t know where we’ll live. How am I going to pay for all these extra expenses?

A. Your homeowners insurance policy will pay the extra expense of living elsewhere — reasonable costs to maintain your household — until your home has been repaired or rebuilt. That would include the cost staying in a hotel for a while, and even clothing. Be sure to keep your receipts.

Q. Most of my personal possessions are ruined. Is there a limit on how much my insurance company will pay for my clothes, furniture and appliances?

A. The contents of your home–your personal possessions–are covered up to the limit set out in the policy, often 50 percent or 75 percent of the amount of coverage you have on your home, depending on the type of policy.

Q. Why do I need a home inventory, won’t my insurance company trust that I know what I have in my home?

A. A home inventory is valuable because it can be very difficult to remember everything that was in the home. A good inventory, if supplemented with photos, video, receipts, model numbers and appraisals, can help the homeowner get a more accurate settlement in less time, in most cases. A copy of the inventory should be kept in a safe, or in a location away from the home. To make creating your inventory as easy as possible, the I.I.I. has a free home inventory tool, Know Your Stuff®, which includes secure online storage so you can access your inventory anywhere, anytime.

Q. Much of my furniture and possessions were badly damaged, can I get rid of them if I have a home inventory?

A. A homeowner should not throw things away until an insurance company representative has had a chance to assess the damage and make a claim report.

Q. My home was vandalized after the fire and my new television was stolen, am I covered?

A. Homeowners insurance policies cover theft and vandalism, so any losses due to looting in the wake of the fire would be paid.

Q. Are there many different kinds of personal coverage policies?

A. There are two basic kinds of coverage for contents–replacement cost and actual cash value. Replacement cost coverage pays for the damaged item to be replaced with a new item of similar quality. Actual cash value coverage, which is less expensive to buy, pays an amount equal to the replacement cost, less depreciation. So if a 20-year-old washing machine is damaged and you have replacement coverage, the insurance company would pay for a new washing machine. If you have an actual cash value policy, the insurance company would pay only a small portion of the cost of buying a new machine, because that machine has already been used for 20 years and would only be worth a fraction of its original cost. Replacement cost policies usually have higher limits for personal possessions than actual cash value policies because the cost of replacing all the damaged items is higher.

Q. What about the house itself? Is the structure insured on a replacement cost basis or will I have to pay for a portion of the cost of replacing my seven-year old roof myself?

A. The typical homeowners policy pays for repairs to the dwelling on a replacement cost basis so that regardless of the age of your roof, the insurance company would pay the entire bill, minus your deductible.

Q. If your home is old, has not been modernized, and is only worth a fraction of the cost of replacing it, would the insurance company pay to rebuild it?

A. People who own such homes usually have a special older home insurance policy. This policy will pay for basic repairs. If the dwelling is not rebuilt, the insurance company will pay the lesser of two amounts: the cost of repairs or the market value of the house, minus the land.

Q. Does my insurance pay for the loss of any trees, shrubs or other plants I lost from the fire?

A. The typical homeowners policy covers trees, shrubs, plants or lawns on the residence for loss caused by fire. Usually insurers will pay up to 5 percent of the limit of liability that applies to the dwelling for all trees, shrubs, plants or lawns. No more than $500 will be paid for any one tree, shrub or plant. Insurance, however, does not cover property grown for business purposes.

Q. Does my insurance company pay for the portion of my home that I rent?

A. A homeowners insurance policy covers the fair rental value of premises less any expenses that do not continue while it is not fit to live in.

Auto Coverage

Q. If my car is destroyed or damaged from the fire, is it covered?

A. If you have comprehensive insurance, your vehicle will be covered for damage or destruction.

Q. My vehicle was vandalized after the fire?my windshield was smashed?and my golf clubs were stolen from the trunk. Am I covered?

A. If you have comprehensive insurance, your vehicle will be covered for theft or vandalism. So any damage or destruction of the vehicle due to looting in the wake of the fire would be paid. If you have homeowners or renters insurance, your golf clubs would be covered under the personal possessions portion of that policy.

Renters Insurance

Q. Will my landlord’s insurance pay for the damage to my personal possessions?

A. No. Your landlord is only responsible for the damage done to the structure of the building. Damage to your personal possessions is covered only if you have a renters insurance policy.

Q. Who knows how long it will take for the apartment building to be rebuilt. What do I do in the meantime? How can I afford to stay in a hotel?

A. Renters insurance will pay for any additional living expenses you may incur before you are able to return to your apartment. Most policies will reimburse you the difference between your additional living expenses and your normal living expenses but still may set limits on the total amount they will pay.

Renters Insurance

Q. Will my landlord’s insurance pay for the damage to my personal possessions?

A. No. Your landlord is only responsible for the damage done to the structure of the building. Damage to your personal possessions is covered only if you have a renters insurance policy.

Q. Who knows how long it will take for the apartment building to be rebuilt. What do I do in the meantime? How can I afford to stay in a hotel?

A. Renters insurance will pay for any additional living expenses you may incur before you are able to return to your apartment. Most policies will reimburse you the difference between your additional living expenses and your normal living expenses but still may set limits on the total amount they will pay. To be continued…

Tornado Fact Review

Courtesy of iii.org

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm and comes into contact with the ground, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In an average year about 1,000 tornadoes are reported nationwide, according to NOAA. Tornado intensity is measured by the enhanced Fujita (EF) scale. The scale rates tornadoes on a scale of 0 through 5, based on the amount and type of wind damage. It incorporates 28 different damage indicators, based on damage to a wide variety of structures ranging from trees to shopping malls.

The U.S. experiences more tornadoes than any other country in the world, according to a 2013 report by Lloyd?s of London. (See Executive Summary, page 4 of Tornadoes a Rising Risk? for additional findings and statistics.)

The Fujita Scale For Tornadoes

Original F scale (1) Enhanced F scale (2)
Category Damage Wind speed (mph) 3-second
gust (mph)
F-0 Light 40-72 65-85
F-1 Moderate 73-112 86-110
F-2 Considerable 113-157 111-135
F-3 Severe 158-207 136-165
F-4 Devastating 208-260 166-200
F-5 Incredible 261-318 Over 200

(1) Original scale: wind speeds represent fastest estimated speeds over one quarter of a mile.
(2) Enhanced scale: wind speeds represent maximum 3-second gusts.

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

INSURED LOSSES

The United States experiences more tornadoes than any other country. Tornadoes accounted for 40.2 percent of insured catastrophe losses from 1996 to 2015, according to Verisk?s Property Claim Services (PCS). In 2015 insured losses from U.S. tornadoes/thunderstorms totaled $9.6 billion, down from $12.3 billion in 2014. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes that tornadoes can happen any time of year. The costliest U.S. catastrophe involving tornadoes, based on insured losses, occurred in April 2011. It hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and other areas, and cost $7.8 billion in insured damages (in 2015 dollars). That event was the 10th costliest U.S. catastrophe, based on insured losses, according to PCS. The second costliest catastrophe involving tornadoes, based on insured losses, struck Joplin, Missouri, and other locations in May 2011. The catastrophe cost $7.3 billion in insured losses in 2015 dollars. (See chart below.) The National Weather Service posts updated information on tornadoes.

THE 2014-2016 TORNADO SEASONS

Preliminary NOAA data show that there were 1,059 tornadoes in 2016, compared with 1,177 in 2015. On January 17, tornadoes developed in Florida with two fatalities. On February 23 and 24 tornadoes formed in Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia resulting in two fatalities in Louisiana, one in Mississippi and four in Virginia. February 23 was the most active tornado day in 2016, when 52 storms formed. On April 27, one fatality resulted from a tornado in Texas and on May 9 tornadoes in Oklahoma killed two people.

The number of tornadoes rose to 1,177 in 2015 from 886 in 2014, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). There were 36 direct fatalities from tornadoes in 2015, down from 47 in 2014, according to NOAA. May was the top month for tornadoes in 2015, with 381 tornadoes. There were 17 tornado-related fatalities in Texas in 2015, followed by 11 in Mississippi and two each in Arkansas, Illinois, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

NOAA data show that there were 886 tornadoes in 2014, compared with 906 in 2013. On April 27, 30 tornadoes formed in seven states (Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Louisiana). Nineteen fatalities were reported. Many homes and buildings were damaged or destroyed in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. On April 28, tornadoes in five states (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee) resulted in 15 fatalities. There were 47 direct fatalities from tornadoes in 2014, down from 55 in 2013, according to NOAA. June was the top month for tornadoes in 2014, with 287 tornadoes.