2018-How Bad Was the Hurricane Damage?

Courtesy of iii.org

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season was less active than the 2017 season but still caused extensive property damage across the southeastern United States, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

The 2018 hurricane season officially concludes tomorrow (Nov. 30) and saw the formation of 15 named storms. Eight of the 15 became hurricanes, and two (Florence and Michael) became major hurricanes, according to Philip Klotzbach, Ph.D., a research scientist with the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University (CSU). Klotzbach is also a non-resident scholar with the I.I.I.

The original CSU forecast for 2018, presented in April, predicted slightly above-average hurricane activity with three major hurricanes. The seasonal outlooks CSU subsequently released in the summer envisioned less hurricane activity, with CSU forecasting 12 named storms, five hurricanes, and one major hurricane on Aug. 2.

“Even in what ended up as an average year for major hurricane activity, 2018 was record-setting, with Hurricane Florence spurring statewide rainfall records in North and South Carolina. In addition, Hurricane Michael was the first time on record a Category 4 hurricane made landfall in the Florida Panhandle,” said Sean Kevelighan, I.I.I. CEO. “As financial first responders, the insurance industry continues to be on the ground, helping to rebuild our customers’ livelihoods and economies more broadly. Nonetheless, these extraordinary hurricanes highlighted for coastal residents and businesses the importance of disaster preparedness, building resilient structures and insuring properties against both flood and wind-caused damage.”

A named storm is considered a hurricane when its sustained wind speeds are at least 74 miles per hour. Major hurricanes are those that are designated as a Category 3 storm or higher, with sustained wind speeds of at least 111 mph.

Florence made landfall as a Category 1 storm on Sept. 14 near Wilmington, North Carolina. It was categorized as a major hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean, but the storm’s wind speeds diminished significantly before striking the U.S. coastline. The weather system lingered for days in the Carolinas, dumping as much as 36 inches of rain in North Carolina and 24 inches in South Carolina, the most ever recorded there after a hurricane.

Michael made landfall on Oct. 10 near Mexico Beach, Florida. More than 85,000 of the 125,000-plus claims Florida’s insurers received as of Nov. 16 as a result of Hurricane Michael were for insured residential properties, and the total estimated insured claim payouts currently are estimated at $3.4 billion.

An average Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms and six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes. The 2017 hurricane season had 17 named storms. Ten of the 17 reached hurricane strength and six became major hurricanes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Sleep & Insurance

Courtesy of iii.org

I came across this from Swiss Re around 2 a.m., which helps explain why it caught my (sleepy) eye:

Consider these two facts: Firstly, two out of three man-made losses worldwide are due to human failure. Based on Swiss Re’s sigma research, this would mean that people trigger a loss volume of around USD 3 billion per year.

Secondly, life insurance generated premiums of USD 2.6 trillion in 2017. These two facts are linked because tired people make more errors and insomniacs are at a greater risk of dying earlier than would otherwise be the case.

That’s right – the insurance angle on sleep.

The lack of sleep is associated with increased rates of heart attacks, strokes, obesity and other diseases. Sleeping less can also contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. And recent research found that chronic sleep restriction increases risk seeking behaviour.

If these trends change the loss patterns in property and casualty or mortality rates, this could have a multi-billion dollar impact on the insurance industry in the long run.

The lack of sleep has caused some high profile accidents, the most notable in my world being a New Jersey Transit train that in 2016 crashed into Hoboken terminal because the engineer, suffering from sleep apnea, zoned out at a crucial moment. One woman died, dozens were injured.

Swiss Re posits that society, ever accelerating, robs us of ever more sleep. The less we sleep, the woozier we become. And the more errors we make. (Our bodies wear out faster too, becoming susceptible to the maladies Swiss Re mentions above.)

A good dose of resilience helps here. New York area railroads are installing (by federal mandate) positive train control systems, which automatically stop trains in any sort of peril, including that of a tired engineer. The illustration above describes how the system works.

As for my own struggles – an e-book of white text on black background, and perhaps a cup of chamomile tea.

Facts on Distracted Driving

Courtesy of http://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/distracted-driving

Activities that take drivers’ attention off the road, including talking or texting on cellphones, eating, conversing with passengers and other distractions, are a major safety threat. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gauges distracted driving by collecting data on distraction-affected crashes, which focuses on distractions that are most likely to affect crash involvement such as dialing a cellphone or texting and being distracted by another person or an outside event. In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes, and 424,000 people were injured. There were 2,910 distraction-affected fatal crashes, accounting for 10 percent of all fatal crashes in the nation, 18 percent of injury crashes and 16 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in 2013.

FATAL CRASHES AFFECTED BY DISTRACTED DRIVERS, 2013

CrashesDriversFatalities
Total fatal crashes30,05744,57432,719
Distracted-affected fatal crashes
Number2,9102,9593,154
Percent of total fatal crashes10%7%10%
Cellphone in use in distracted-affected fatal crashes
Number411427445
Percent of fatal distracted-affected crashes14%14%14%

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

View Archived Tables

NHTSA says that in 2013, 14 percent of distraction-affected crashes occurred while a cell phone was in use. The chart below shows driver hand-held phone use by age.

DRIVER HAND-HELD CELLPHONE USE BY AGE, 2005-2014 (1)

 

(1) Percent of drivers using hand-held cellphones.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

View Archived Graphs

NHTSA’s website, Distraction.gov has more information on distracted driving. “It Can Wait”, a public awareness campaign funded by four by wireless carriers, provides resources on the dangers of distracted driving, including “From One Second to the Next”, a film by director Werner Herzog profiling the victims of distracted driving.

Insuring a Classic Car

Courtesy of iii.org

A classic, custom, collectible or antique car requires insurance that reflects your vehicle’s uniqueness and value. If you own—or are thinking of owning—a special set of wheels, find out about the kind of policy you need.


What types of vehicles need special insurance?

A classic, collectible or antique car is no ordinary car—and regular auto insurance is not sufficient to protect such a vehicle against damage or loss.

That said, there is no uniform definition of a classic car. If a car’s value exceeds its original selling price, then it might be considered collectible and a candidate for specialized classic car insurance. In general, vehicles that might warrant classic car auto insurance include:

  • Antique and classic cars, usually at least 25 to 30 years old
  • Hotrods and modified vehicles
  • Exotic and luxury autos—think James Bond
  • Muscle cars
  • Classic trucks

You might also seek specialized insurance for vintage military vehicles, classic motorcycles and antique tractors.

Qualifying for classic car coverage

A car’s age is not enough to qualify for specialized classic car insurance. While requirements differ from company to company, most cars need to meet the following criteria in order to qualify:

  • Limited use – Your classic car cannot be used for everyday commuting or errands, and your policy may include mileage limitations and proof the car is being properly garaged if you do travel with it. In some cases, insurers may require that you also own a primary car for everyday use.
  • Car shows and meetings – The limited use provision of a classic car policy allows for travel to car shows and auto club meet-ups; however, this coverage may be restricted by some insurers. If this is the case, there are insurers that can provide specialized coverage for car shows and meetings. Before choosing a classic car insurer, it’s worth checking whether they have travel restrictions if you plan to take your car on regular, multi-day, high mileage drives.
  • Secure storage – When not in use, your special vehicle must be stored in a locked, enclosed, private structure, such as a residential garage or storage unit.
  • A clean driving record – You may be disqualified from classic auto insurance if you have serious offenses on your driving record, such as reckless driving, repeat speeding violations or driving while intoxicated.

Not every vehicle, however special, will meet the qualifications of every insurer. For instance, some insurers may not cover vintage off-road vehicles. Insurers may also decline to insure vehicles that are in poor condition or have been previously damaged.

What you should know about classic car policies

Your classic car policy will include provisions found in standard auto insurance policies, notably property damage and bodily injury liability coverage. But there are some differences, as well:

  • Your car’s value – Because each car’s condition is unique, there is no set “book value” for specific makes and models. The first step in insuring your classic car is for you and your insurer to reach an agreement on the value of the vehicle. This value will be specified in your policy and your car will be covered up to that value without depreciation.

Note that, unlike everyday vehicles that depreciate over time as you add miles to them, classic cars may gain value. Make sure you adjust your coverage as the value of your auto appreciates.

  • Specialized repair or restoration – Your policy should you the flexibility to bring your vintage Mercedes, Ferrari or Corvette to a specialist—even if the rates may be twice, or three times, the cost of a typical car repair at a traditional auto body shop.
  • Special towing and spare parts – Coverage for towing is commensurate with the special demands of transporting a classic car. Spare parts coverage, too, needs to be aligned with the cost of replacing valuable and perhaps hard-to-find vehicle components, such as wheels, transmissions, and engine parts.

Liability and Parties

Courtesy of iii.org

Whether you’re hosting a Super Bowl party for 50 or greeting the New Year with a few friends, if you’re planning to serve alcohol at your home take steps to limit your liquor liability and make sure you have the proper insurance.


Social host liability is the legal term for the criminal and civil responsibility of a person who furnishes liquor to a guest. Social host liability can have serious consequences for party throwers.

Social host liability law

Also known as “Dram Shop Liability,” social host liability laws vary widely from state to state, but 43 states have them on the books. Most of these laws also offer an injured person, such as the victim of a drunk driver, a method to sue the person who served the alcohol. There are circumstances under these laws where criminal charges may also apply.

While a social host is not liable for injuries sustained by a drunken guest (as the guest is also negligent), the host can be held liable for harm to third parties, and even for passengers of the guest who have been injured in their car.

Social host liability—insurance considerations

Homeowners insurance usually provides some liquor liability coverage, but limits are typically $100,000 to $300,000, which, depending on your assets, might not be enough. Before planning a party in your home, speak to your insurance professional to review your homeowners coverage for any exclusions, conditions or limitations your policy might have that would affect your social liability risk.

Protect yourself and your guests

Remember that a good host is a responsible host. If you plan to serve alcohol at a party, promote safe alcohol consumption and take these steps to reduce your social host liability exposure:

  • Make sure you understand your state laws. These laws vary widely from state to state (see final chart). Some states do not impose any liability on social hosts. Others limit liability to injuries that occur on the host’s premises. Some extend the host’s liability to injuries that occur anywhere a guest who has consumed alcohol goes. Many states have laws that pertain specifically to furnishing alcohol to minors.
  • Consider venues other than your home for the party. Hosting your party at a restaurant or bar with a liquor license, rather than at your home, will help minimize liquor liability risks.
  • Hire a professional bartender. Most bartenders are trained to recognize signs of intoxication and are better able to limit consumption by partygoers.
  • Encourage guests to pick a designated driver who will refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages so that he or she can drive other guests home.
  • Limit your own alcohol intake as a responsible host/hostess, so that you will be better able to judge your guests’ sobriety.
  • Offer non-alcoholic beverages and always serve food. Eating and drinking plenty of water, or other non-alcoholic beverages, can help counter the effects of alcohol.
  • Do not pressure guests to drink or rush to refill their glasses when empty. And never serve alcohol to guests who are visibly intoxicated.
  • Stop serving liquor toward the end of the evening. Switch to coffee, tea and soft drinks.
  • If guests drink too much or seem too tired to drive home, call a cab, arrange a ride with a sober guest or have them sleep at your home.
  • Encourage all your guests to wear seatbelts as they drive home. Studies show that seatbelts save lives.

Avoiding Scams After A Disaster

Don’t be a victim of dishonest service providers

Courtesy of iii.org

If your home was destroyed by a hurricane, wildfire or other disaster, be cautious.

Unfortunately, there are dishonest service providers that prey on disaster victims. They know that people who have lost their homes and valuables may not be thinking clearly. If you have suffered this type of loss, don’t make any rash decisions. Talk to your insurance agent, who may recommend service providers in your area.

Here are some basic guidelines for hiring service providers.

Here are some basic guidelines for hiring service providers.

Roofers and builders

  1. Don’t be rushed into signing a contract with any company. Instead, collect business cards and get written estimates for the proposed job.
  2. Beware of building contractors that encourage you to spend a lot of money on temporary repairs. Payments for temporary repairs are covered as part of the total settlement. If you pay a contractor a large sum for a temporary repair job, you may not have enough money for permanent repairs. In most cases, you should be able to make the temporary repairs yourself. Ask your insurance agent. And remember to keep receipts.
  3. Investigate the track record of any roofer, builder or contractor that you consider hiring. Look for professionals that have a solid reputation in your community. You can call your Better Business Bureau for help. Also, get references and never give anyone a deposit until after you have thoroughly researched their background.

A common fraud scheme is for a so-called “contractor” to convince a homeowner that a large deposit must be provided before repair work can begin. Frequently, the job will be started, but not completed. Unfortunately, these con artists are never seen or heard from again.

Public adjusters and attorneys

  1. Don’t make any rash decisions about hiring someone to handle your claim. Be especially wary of individuals who go door-to-door soliciting business in the aftermath of a catastrophe. Most importantly, don’t let anyone scare you into signing a contract. You don’t want to be victimized by someone who comes into town, hoping to make a fast buck. You could end up forfeiting a significant portion of your insurance dollars.
  2. Before hiring a public adjuster or an attorney, try to settle your claim directly with your insurance company. Your insurer provides an adjuster at no charge to you. Ask your insurance agent or company representative to help you with your claim and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you decide to work directly with your insurer, you still have the right to hire a third-party professional to help you.
  3. If your claim is complicated and you want to hire a public adjuster or attorney, make sure that person is qualified to handle your case. Ask your friends, relatives or business associates for the names of well-regarded professionals in your community. Also, call your state insurance department regarding a public adjuster, and your state or county bar association about a prospective attorney.
  4. Understand that you will have to pay a public adjuster 15 percent and an attorney as much as 30 percent of your total claim settlement.

 

Next steps: Make sure your home is properly insured before disaster strikes.

Charity Updates-Week of Giving

Courtesy of iii.org

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

The IICF is a nonprofit organization that unites the insurance industry in helping communities and enriching lives through grants, volunteer service and leadership. For more than 20 years, thousands of insurance industry volunteers representing their own companies work together in the spirit of industry camaraderie to serve local communities. These projects include partnerships with hundreds of nonprofits and charities, focused in the areas of early childhood literacy; homeless and veterans causes; support of women, children and families; food insecurity; child abuse prevention; beach, river and community park clean ups; disaster preparedness and safety; and other important programs. In 2017, nearly 10,200 industry volunteers, in 173 cities, participated in the IICF Week of Giving. More than 28,800 hours of service, dedicated to projects, were completed with nonprofits and community organizations across the United States and United Kingdom.

The 2018 Week of Giving runs October 13 – 20. For more information—and to sign up as a volunteer—go to www.weekofgiving.iicf.org.

2018 IICF Week of Giving Press Release

2018 IICF Week of Giving Communications Toolkit

2018 IICF Week of Giving Volunteer Team Leader Guide

2018 IICF Week of Giving How To Report Service Guide

2018 IICF Week of Giving FAQs

Understanding Homeowners Insurance Coverage

Courtesy of iii.org

Homeowners coverage provides financial protection against loss due to disasters, theft and accidents. Most standard policies include four essential types of coverage: Coverage for the structure of your home; Coverage for your personal belongings; Liability protection; Coverage for Additional Living Expenses


Coverage for the structure of your home

Your homeowners policy pays to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by fire, hurricane, hail, lightning or other disasters listed in your policy. Most policies also cover detached structures such as a garage, tool shed or gazebo—generally for about 10 percent of the amount of insurance you have on the structure of the house.

A standard policy will not pay for damage caused by a flood, earthquake or routine wear and tear.

When purchasing coverage for the structure of your home, remember this simple guideline: Purchase enough coverage to rebuild your home.

Coverage for your personal belongings

Your furniture, clothes, sports equipment and other personal items are covered if they are stolen or destroyed by fire, hurricane or other insured disasters. The coverage is generally 50 to 70 percent of the insurance you have on the structure of the house.

The best way to determine if this is enough coverage is to conduct a home inventory.

Personal belongings coverage includes items stored off-premises—this means you are covered anywhere in the world. Some companies limit the amount to 10 percent of the amount of insurance you have for your possessions. You also have up to $500 of coverage for unauthorized use of your credit cards.

Expensive items like jewelry, furs, art, collectibles and silverware are covered, but there are usually dollar limits if they are stolen. To insure these items to their full value, purchase a special personal property endorsement or floater and insure the item for its officially appraised value.

Trees, plants and shrubs are also covered under standard homeowners insurance—generally for about $500 per item. Trees and plants are not covered for disease, or if they have been poorly maintained.

Liability protection

Liability covers you against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you or family members cause to other people. It also pays for damage caused by your pets. So, if your son, daughter (or even your dog) accidentally ruins a neighbor’s expensive rug, you are covered. (However, if they destroy your rug, you’re out of luck.)

The liability portion of your policy pays for both the cost of defending you in court and any court awards—up to the limit stated in your policy documents.

Liability limits generally start at about $100,000, however, it’s a good idea to discuss whether you should purchase a higher level of protection with your insurance professional. If you have significant assets and want more coverage than is available under your homeowners policy, consider purchasing an umbrella or excess liability policy, which provides broader coverage and higher liability limits.

Your policy also provides no-fault medical coverage, so if a friend or neighbor is injured in your home, he or she can simply submit medical bills to your insurance company. This way, expenses can be paid without a liability claim being filed against you. It does not, however, pay the medical bills for your own family or your pet.

Additional living expenses (ALE)

ALE pays the additional costs of living away from home if you cannot live there due to damage from a an insured disaster. It covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other costs, over and above your usual living expenses, incurred while your home is being rebuilt.

Keep in mind that the ALE coverage in your homeowners policy has limits—and some policies include a time limitation. However, these limits are separate from the amount available to rebuild or repair your home. Even if you use up your ALE your insurance company will still pay the full cost of rebuilding your home up to the policy limit.

If you rent out part of your house, ALE also covers you for the rent that you would have collected from your tenant if your home had not been destroyed.

Next steps: Purchasing a home? Get the Home Buyers Insurance Checklist.

Cyberrisks, What’s the Risk?

Courtesy of iii.org

A lawyer once warned me during a seminar that I should never, ever send an email – ever. “Get on a phone instead,” he counseled. (I assume he hadn’t watched The Wire.)

Impossible to follow as his advice was, it stuck with me because he was right, in a way. If there’s anything we should’ve learned after all the data breaches these past few years, it’s that nothing about our online lives is safe from prying eyes. Not Social Security numbers. Not medical records. And definitely not our social media activity.

People know the risks. The good news is that many American consumers are aware that their connected lives are incredibly vulnerable. According to a recent Insurance Information Institute and J.D. Power 2018 Consumer Cyber Insurance and Security Spotlight SurveySM, almost seven out of 10 connected technology owners (69 percent) are not comfortable sharing personal information on social media such as Facebook and Instagram.

But behavior is slow to change. The bad news is that only about a third changed the way they used social media or connected technology after learning about recent data abuses and breaches.

And it’s even more alarming that fully 85 percent of surveyed connected technology owners either don’t have cyberrisk insurance or don’t know if they do.

Education and insurance are important. Just like in real life (wear a helmet, everybody!), leading a safe online life starts with education about the risks involved. That education includes learning how insurance can help. Insurers are in a unique position to spearhead these education efforts – people will often turn to their insurance company after they’ve suffered losses from a data breach.

But consumers first need to learn about the cyber insurance options out there that can help immensely after a hack. For that to happen, insurers need to demonstrate to consumers the relatively inexpensive and valuable coverage that is available to protect them.

The alternative is for all of us to go back to sending letters by snail mail – or, if a certain lawyer is to be believed, never writing anything down at all.

Do You Need Renters Insurance? Here’s Why!

Courtesy of iii.org

Hey guys, I know you’re busy having fun watching football, but it’s time for us to have a talk about renters insurance. Why? Because the I.I.I. found that only 37 percent of renters have renters insurance. Which is bad, because renters insurance is important and good.

One of the most important things renters insurance covers is damage to your personal property. Your landlord’s insurance probably doesn’t cover any of your personal belongings if a covered loss happens to the apartment.

(Covered losses usually include fire, water damage from an overflowing sink, theft, vandalism, and a few other things. But be sure to talk to an agent and read your policy because different companies often vary in their wording.)

It’s important because you own things

The first objection I often hear about renters insurance is “Lucian, I don’t need it because I don’t own a lot of stuff.” Yes, we’re all about minimalist Instagram chic ? in theory. But in practice, we own a lot of stuff, because we’re human beings who need clothes and dishes and sometimes we even own a couch.

Think about clothing for a minute. Unless you live by Miami Beach and only need a bathing suit, you own more than one set of clothes. A few pairs of pants. Blouses. Underwear (presumably). Maybe you own a suit or nice dress for work. If you live up north, you probably also have an entire winter wardrobe.

Now imagine you lost all your clothes in a fire. It could cost you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to replace them. Because you own a lot of clothes.

Nothing is free ? especially not replacing all your stuff

Another objection I often hear is “Lucian, won’t I just be giving those big insurance companies free money if nothing bad happens to my stuff?”

First, premiums are often pretty reasonable. The most I’ve ever paid for renters insurance was around $25 a month, and that was in a part of New York City where I was still probably getting a bargain. Some of the new app-based companies charge premiums as low as $5 a month. Your budget won’t hate you for that kind of expense.

Besides, no one ever says “at last, I can finally cash in on those insurance premiums I’ve been paying!” after their apartment building burns down and they lose everything.

Which leads me to my second point: an intangible value of insurance is peace of mind. People like to know that they don’t have to spend all their disposable income replacing everything they own. Odds are, you’re also one of those people.

Like life itself, renters insurance is about more than just the things you own

But let’s pretend for a minute you don’t actually own any stuff. Renters insurance also usually covers:

  • Your liability expenses if someone gets hurt in your apartment. Imagine someone is over at your apartment that has no furniture in it because you don’t own any stuff. Now imagine that someone gets hurt after slipping on your uncarpeted tiled floor because you don’t own carpets and they sue you. Your renters insurance will probably cover some legal costs. And even if they don’t sue you, your insurance can cover certain medical expenses for your injured guest.
  • Increased living expenses. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean your insurer will cover your rent increase. But it does mean that if a covered loss (think: apartment fire) makes your apartment uninhabitable, your policy could reimburse you for food and temporary housing. You don’t want to be that person without renters insurance standing outside their burning apartment building in 20-degree January weather with no place to go.

It’s really easy to buy

We’re all busy, but applying for renters insurance takes maybe 15 minutes, tops. Many companies let you apply via an app, so while your train is hopelessly delayed you can use that time to protect yourself and your stuff. That way, if your apartment building catches fire while you’re at work, you can rest (relatively) easy knowing that you’ll have help buying replacement stuff and having a place to stay while you find a new apartment ? for about the price of a coffee or four a month.

Seriously, get renters insurance.