Drunk Driving Holiday Risks

Courtesy of iii.org

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

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

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

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

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

Recent developments

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

FAQ FEMA & Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

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


Q. How do I apply for FEMA disaster assistance?

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

Q. What happens after I apply for disaster assistance?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional resources

For more information, visit the FEMA website.

What You Need to Know About Claims

Courtesy of iii.org

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


The initial payment isn’t final

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

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

You may receive multiple checks

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

Your lender or management company might have control over your payment

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

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

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

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

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

Your insurance company may pay your contractor directly

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

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

Your ALE check should be made out to you

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

Your personal belongings will be calculated on cash value, first

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home Repairs-A New Idea

Courtesy of iii.org

You’ve heard of preferred providers for health insurance policies. They are considered mutually beneficial because insured people get medical services at a reduced rate and the provider gains business since more patients are directed there. Auto insurers have used that model for decades. They have networks of pre-approved auto body shops to repair cars involved in crashes. Because most people don’t know the best place to unbend a fender bender, this is a proven formula for piecing a car back together. Similar programs also exist when a home or business suffers damage. Many insurers have managed repair programs for filing property claims to get damage repaired promptly and correctly ? and to help control claims costs.

The most important thing to understand about controlling claims costs is the consumer benefit. Insurance is the cost of claims. If the cost of claims is controlled, then the price you pay for insurance is controlled. It is NOT about paying less on the settlement amount of the claim; it is about paying what is owed and what is necessary at a fair price.

When a homeowner has a claim and their insurer offers a managed repair program, the repairs are done through a contracting company that has been vetted, approved and overseen by the insurer. Use of a managed repair contractor saves the homeowner time (“Time is money”) and the hassle of taking a chance on an unknown and unproven repair company. Many times, the insurance company also backs up the workmanship of their approved contractors with a stronger guarantee or warranty than what one would find if going directly. It’s about customer satisfaction.

Managed repair programs are optional (although an insurer offering a premium discount for signing up for one may allow you to change your mind only at renewal time ? not in the middle of a claim).

There is a lot to like about this managed repair concept, if you understand how it works and whom it benefits. Saving money on homeowners insurance is more than a concept. It’s the goal.

Watercraft, Insurance and You

Courtesy of http://www.insuringflorida.org/the-right-insurance-keeps-your-boat-afloat/

Living in Florida means boating season never ends. With the right insurance protection, your boating days can be as carefree as a day at the beach. The type of insurance coverage you get depends upon the boat.

If you have a small boat, such as a canoe or kayak, you may have coverage under your homeowners or renters insurance policy. Coverage is usually about $1,000 or 10 percent of the home’s insured value. That amount of coverage includes the small boat, motor and anything you may use to tow it. It does not typically include liability insurance.

Extra liability coverage for boaters makes good sense. Some insurers exclude liability coverage for jet-skis under standard property insurance policies because of the high rate of accidents and injuries. Check with your insurer to see what’s covered and ask about additional protection that you can purchase through an endorsement. If you own a jet-ski or plan to rent one, check out ourjet-ski safety video.

People who own small boats need to “go large” on safety. According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2013 Boating Statistics, eight of 10 boaters who drowned were in vessels of less than 21 feet. And, 84 percent of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. Alcohol use is the leading contributor to boating accidents, along with operator inattention and inexperience. Not unlike the statistics for highways.

To cover physical loss for larger boats (and those valued above $1,000), you need broader coverage. With a watercraft policy or an endorsement to your existing homeowners policy, you’ll be covered for every type of loss or damage to your boat, including theft. There are a few coverage exceptions (such as normal wear and tear). Many boat owners choose a discounted package that covers the boat, motor and trailer.

Some people may decide to go without insurance on their boat because it’s paid in full, so no lender is “forcing” them to get coverage. That’s always an option, I guess, if you can afford to sink your investment. Back in 2004, when Florida experienced multiple hurricanes, you probably saw images of boats slammed together near marinas or flung into streets by high winds, resting a block from the ocean. I remember talking to a woman after Hurricane Ivan who said she had just sunk $10,000 into remodeling her yacht, which was found smashed to bits in a parking lot. “That’s not covered under my homeowners insurance, is it?” she asked. She knew the answer before asking the question, and now so do you.

Continued-Unclaimed Life Insurance

Courtesy of http://www.iii.org/article/unclaimed-life-insurance-benefits

3. The life insurance company might not be able to find the policy’s beneficiaries (legitimate claimants). There might be one or both of two problems in this scenario. The first is that the descriptions of the beneficiaries might be insufficiently precise for the life insurance company to locate them. This would be the case, for example, if the beneficiary designation says “my wife” or “my children” without naming them specifically and, ideally, providing a Social Security number and a current address for each one.

Be sure to provide detailed personal identification information about every beneficiary to each life insurer from whom you have coverage for death benefits so that, when the time comes, they can be easily located and their identity confirmed. The other problem is that, even if the company knows who it is looking for, it may be very difficult to track down a beneficiary, especially as it may be many years, or even decades, since the policy was taken out. Keep in mind that, for privacy reasons, until the death occurs, the life insurer cannot even respond to a beneficiary’s inquiry as to whether they are a beneficiary or not.

4. Beneficiaries might not know that a life insurance policy exists under which they are beneficiaries. It may come as a surprise, but sometimes beneficiaries do not know that they are covered by the insured’s individual or group life insurance policy. The insured may have a variety of reasons for keeping this information secret from the beneficiaries, but an unfortunate consequence is that the benefits could end up unclaimed because no one actually realized that they could make a claim. It is wise to tell the beneficiaries of your life insurance (both individual policies and group coverages) that when you die they will be entitled to death benefits. Also provide them with the name and home city and state of the life insurance company and the policy number.

5. The original life insurance company no longer exists (it might have merged, changed its name, moved to another state) and cannot be located by the insured, owner or beneficiaries. The name of the company that sold the original life insurance policy may have changed, possibly making it more difficult for the beneficiary to locate the insurer in order to make a claim. Life insurance companies are not any different from companies in any other industry in this respect?but the multi-decade length of the contract can transform this type of normal corporate development into an extra hurdle for beneficiaries. Some will not know where or how to look for the new insurer, leaving the benefits unclaimed when the insured dies.

Typically, an insurer that is changing its name or location will notify its policyholders of such a change. Keeping a record of any notices regarding changes to the name, location or contact information for your life insurance company, will make it easier for your beneficiaries to make a claim. If a family member dies and you are unable to locate his or her life insurance policy, we have tips available: How can I locate a lost life insurance policy?

Understanding Life Insurance-Unclaimed

Courtesy of http://www.iii.org/article/unclaimed-life-insurance-benefits

Sometimes life insurance benefits are left unclaimed after a policyholder dies. This is an unfortunate problem under any circumstances, but especially now, when many people are struggling financially. What is more, this is an easily preventable outcome. To ensure that your life insurance benefits do not go unclaimed it is important to understand why this might happen. There are five major reasons; we will examine each in turn.

1. The life insurance company and the policy’s owner and/or insured might have lost track of each other. The main mode of contact between you and financial institutions (banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, investment management companies, etc.) is by “snail” mail. As with anyone with whom you wish to keep in contact after you move, you must tell them your new mailing address or they will lose track of you. The U.S. Post Office will only forward first-class mail for a year to a forwarding address, and the sender is not aware that the mail is being forwarded to a new address as the Post Office does not inform the financial institution of the change. So if you move you should immediately inform every financial institution directly of your new mailing address, including your life insurer(s). Of course, the same principle applies to other forms of communication: tell the life insurance company of new phone numbers (cell and land line), email address, fax number, etc.

2. The life insurance company might not know that the insured has died. Life insurance companies typically do not know when a policyholder dies until they are informed of his or her death, usually by the policy’s beneficiary. Even if a policy is in a premium-paying stage and the payments stop, the insurance company has no reason to assume that the insured has died.

Moreover, there are policies that have benefits called cash values, with an Automatic Premium Loan (APL) feature. An APL policy borrows money from the cash value to pay a premium due if the money does not come in by the end of the grace period; thus preventing an unintended lapse of the policy, which would have the disastrous effect of loss of the entire death benefit should the insured die after premiums due were not paid. Under an APL, the policy would continue in full force until all of the cash value had been borrowed, at which time it would lapse.

Also, many policies are in a stage in which no premiums are due. Some life insurance is bought with a single premium or a small number of premiums due (such as 10 or 20 annual payments), but the insured might live a long time after the premium payments end. Thus the life insurance company would stop sending premium notices after all premiums were paid. Moreover, there is no master list of who is alive and who is dead. The Social Security Administration has the closest thing to such a list?a file on its income beneficiaries (those receiving retirement or disability income from Social Security) to record those who are alive and who have deceased, so as to avoid making payments that are not legitimate?but this does not cover everyone. Millions of people, in fact, are not covered by Social Security (federal employees, state employees in four states, railroad employees, etc.), and therefore would not appear on this list.

Employers who sponsor group life insurance to active employees will notify the life insurer if a covered employee dies. And, it is possible that the deceased would also have individual life insurance policies with the same company that issues the group policy, but this becomes less likely when people switch jobs but do not switch individual life insurers. So remember to provide your beneficiaries with the name of, and contact information for, your life insurance company, so they can report your death and file a claim. to be continued…

Updates on Flood Insurance Changes

Standard homeowners and renters insurance does not cover flood damage. Flood coverage, however, is available in the form of a separate policy both from the National Flood Insurance Program – NFIP (888-379-9531) and from a few private insurers.

The NFIP provides coverage for up to $250,000 for the structure of the home and $100,000 for personal possessions. The NFIP policy provides replacement cost coverage for the structure of your home, but only actual cash value coverage for your possessions. Replacement cost coverage pays to rebuild your home as it was before the damage. Actual cash value is replacement cost coverage minus depreciation so that the older your possessions are, the less you will get if they are damaged. There may also be limits on coverage for furniture and other belongings stored in your basement.

Flood insurance is available for renters as well as homeowners. You will need flood insurance if you live in a designated flood zone. But flooding can also occur in inland areas and away from major rivers. Consider buying a flood insurance policy if your house could be flooded by melting snow, an overflowing creek or pond or water running down a steep hill. Don?t wait for a flood season warning on the evening news to buy a policy?there is a 30-day waiting period before the coverage takes effect.

Excess flood insurance is also available from some private insurers for those who need additional insurance protection over and above the basic policy or whose community does not participate in the NFIP. Depending on the amount of coverage purchased, an excess flood insurance policy will cover damage above the limits of the federal program on the same basis as the federal program?replacement cost for the structure and actual cash value for the contents.

Excess flood insurance is available in all parts of the country?in high risk flood zones along the coast and close to major rivers as well as in areas of lower risk?wherever the federal program is available. It can be purchased from specialized companies through independent insurance agents, or from regular homeowners insurance companies that have arrangements with a specialized insurer to provide coverage to their policyholders.