Driving and Seniors

Courtesy of iii.org

Older drivers are keeping their licenses longer and driving more miles than ever before.

The high fatality rates of this age group reflect the fact that older drivers are more easily injured than younger people and are more apt to have medical complications and die of those injuries.

There is a growing need to help older drivers sharpen their skills as well as recognize their changing abilities and adapt their driving practices appropriately. Insurers have partnered with state and local governments, and groups such as AARP and the AAA Foundation for Highway Safety to create programs designed to address these needs.

Improving Older Driver Safety

According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration, impairments in three key areas—vision, cognition and motor function—are responsible for higher crash rates for older drivers. Vision declines with age; cognition, which includes memory and attention, can be impacted by medical problems such as dementia and medication side effects; and motor function suffers as flexibility declines due to diseases such as arthritis.

A 2018 report from TRIP, a nonprofit organization that studies transportation issues, calls for transportation improvements that will enable older Americans to maintain their mobility. Since there are about 46 million people age 65 or older, projected to more than double to over 98 million by 2060, roadway safety improvements are increasingly important as 90 percent of travel for this demographic takes place in a private vehicle. Almost 80 percent live in auto-dependent suburban and rural areas. Public transit accounts for only two percent of trips for older Americans. Ridesharing services can help seniors maintain their mobility although they often require the use of smartphones, which are owned by under one-third of older Americans. Self-driving and connected vehicles hold much promise for the mobility of older Americans.

Licensing requirements and restrictions

Many states routinely attempt to identify, assess and regulate older drivers with diminishing abilities who cannot or will not voluntarily modify their driving habits. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 18 states require older drivers to renew their drivers licenses more often than the rest of the state’s residents. In addition, 18 states require more frequent vision tests for older motorists. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia prohibit older drivers from renewing licenses by mail or online. One state, Illinois, requires older drivers age 75 and over to take a road test at renewal and the District of Columbia requires a doctor’s approval for drivers over the age of 70 to renew their licenses.

Some states restrict driving activities for people with certain medical conditions or after a serious accident or traffic violation. Depending on their ability, older drivers may be limited to driving during daylight hours or on nonfreeway types of roads. In most states restrictions such as these can be placed on anyone’s drivers license, regardless of age, if his or her medical condition warrants it.

A 2014 study published in the journal Injury Epidemiology found that no policy in state drivers license renewal laws examined had a significant impact on fatal crash involvement of drivers younger than 85 years of age. However, two provisions had some effect on the involvement of older drivers in fatal crashes. Mandatory in-person renewal was associated with a 31 percent reduction in the fatal crash involvement rates of drivers ages 85 and older. In states where in-person renewal was not required, requiring drivers to pass a vision test was associated with a similar reduction for drivers age 85 and older. But in states where in-person renewal was required, mandating a vision test was not associated with any additional reduction, along with requiring a knowledge test or an on-road driving test. Results were also not statistically significant for laws that require more frequent renewal or requiring healthcare providers to report cases concerning their patients’ driving ability.

Insurance discounts

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, as of January 2015, 34 states and the District of Columbia mandated premium discounts for older adults. (These state laws have not been changed since February 2013.) All but Massachusetts require older drivers (usually age 55 and over) to complete an approved-accident prevention course. In addition, 12 states mandate discounts to all drivers (including older drivers) who take defensive driving or other drivers’ education courses. In general, the state-mandated discounts apply to liability coverages because they are most relevant. The regulations can vary by state. For instance, in Massachusetts the older adult discount applies to all coverages for drivers over the age of 65.

In addition, some insurance companies offer discounts in the states in which they do business for drivers who complete defensive driving or other approved courses, including discounts for seniors who take AARP courses.

If You Need to a Locate 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 statements

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

6. Check the mail

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

7. Review income tax returns

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

8. Contact state insurance departments

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

9. Check with the state’s Unclaimed Property Office

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

10. Contact a private search service

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

11. Might the policy have originated in Canada?

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

12. Search the MIB database

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

Insurance Claims and Irma FAQ

Courtesy of iii.org

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, policyholders may have questions about how insurance works following a natural disaster. Here are some answers to many of these common questions.


Q. Are flood losses covered under my homeowners insurance policy?

A. Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover flood damage, including damage from a storm surge. Flood coverage requires a separate policy from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), or from some private insurance companies.

More information about flood insurance.

Q. Is property damage from a storm surge considered flood damage?

A. Yes, it is?and, therefore, storm surge is covered by your flood insurance policy. A standard homeowners insurance policy does not cover damage from floods, such as flooding from a storm surge.

Q. What is the “official” definition of a flood? If there is only water on my property in my neighborhood, is that considered a flood?

A. Flood damage is caused by an overflow of inland or tidal waters and is defined as a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres and two or more properties of what is normally dry land. So if only one property is damaged, then that is not considered flood related.

Q. Is wind damage covered under my homeowners insurance policy?

A. Property insurance covers damage from windstorms, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, to the “residence premises,” whether it is a single-family home, a duplex where the policyholder lives in one of the units, or any other building where the policyholder resides as shown on the insurance declarations page. A standard homeowners policy also applies to attached structures, such as a garage or deck, and “other structures” that are unattached, such as a separate garage building or shed and swimming pools. The policy includes coverage for damage to contents.

More information about homeowners coverage.

Q. Does my renters insurance cover damage from wind?

A. A renters policy covers personal belongings that are damaged by wind from the storm. Damage from flooding may be covered under some, but not all, renters policies. A separate renters flood policy can be purchased from the NFIP. Damage unrelated to your personal possessions, such as part of the apartment’s structure like the walls and floor, is covered under the building owner’s policy.

More information about renters insurance.

Q. I live in a condo. Am I covered for wind damage to my unit?

A. If you have purchased a co-op or condominium policy for your apartment or townhouse, you are covered for damage to the interior space of your home. The condo association’s insurance might have coverage for your fixtures, wiring or plumbing, or it may only provide coverage from the “bare walls” and not what is behind them. You can obtain a copy of the master policy to better understand what is covered.

More information about co-op/condo insurance.

Q. My car was flooded in the storm. Is it covered?

A. Flood damage to vehicles, including flooding from a storm surge, is covered if you have purchased comprehensive coverage, also known as “other than collision” coverage, which is optional with a standard auto policy. Four out of five drivers choose to buy comprehensive coverage.

More information about auto coverage.

Q. If I make temporary repairs to my home, will I get reimbursed?

A. Yes. Do not wait until a claims adjuster arrives to make temporary repairs that will prevent further damage. Most insurance policies will reimburse you for the expense of making such reasonable and necessary repairs, up to a specified dollar amount. In fact, most policies require you to take these preventive steps. Be sure to save all the receipts from purchases related to your repairs so you can be reimbursed.

Q. The power went out during the storm and food in the refrigerator and freezer were spoiled. Is that covered?

A. Following a hurricane, some insurance companies may include food-spoilage coverage, usually for a set amount that can range from $250 to $500 per appliance. Check with your insurance professional.

Q. I have a percentage deductible for hurricane damage. How do I know what my out-of-pocket costs are?

A. The declarations page of your insurance policy details the exact dollar amount of your hurricane deductible. Whether a hurricane deductible applies to a claim depends on the specific “trigger”, which can vary by state and insurer and may be linked to wind speeds.

More information about deductibles.

Q. Should I file a claim if the damage is less than my deductible?

A. Yes. Sometimes there may be additional damage that becomes evident in the months following a significant storm. Filing a claim, even if the damage total is under your deductible, will protect you in the event further repairs are needed. And if your home suffers damage from more than one storm in a single season, the damage from the first storm may apply toward the deductible amount.

Q. My home was not damaged, but can I file a claim for the large tree that fell in my yard?

A. Homeowners insurance policies do not pay for removal of trees or landscaping debris that did no damage to an insured structure. If a tree hit your home, that damage is covered; if your tree fell on your neighbor’s home, his or her insurance company would pay for the damage. However, if the felled tree was poorly maintained or diseased and you took no steps to take care of it, their insurer may seek reimbursement from you for the damages.

More information about trees and insurance.

Q. My home is uninhabitable. How can I cover temporary living expenses?

A. Most homeowners and renters policies cover additional living expenses?any costs over and above your customary living expenses?when you are displaced from your home by a covered loss (such as wind damage) and need temporary shelter. The amount is generally 20 percent of the total insurance you have on your home. Some insurers pay more than 20 percent; others limit additional living expenses to an amount spent during a specific time period. Keep all your receipts to document your expenditures.

Q. If I evacuated due to the storm, are my evacuation expenses covered?

A. Generally, expenses related to evacuation are only covered if there is also damage to your property. This is because the coverage is part of the property policy.

Q. I’ve heard that Texas has a new law that affects prevents me from filing a lawsuit in a claims dispute. Is that true?

A. No, it is not. Texas law has strong protections for consumers, and those protections remain in place. A law that will effective Sept. 1, 2017 (HB1774) simply requires that an insurance company be given written notice of legal action before a lawsuit is filed. It does not bar any individual from having access to the courts nor does it prevent consumers from seeking legal counsel.

Q. Advertisements and social media traffic are suggesting that I need a lawyer or public adjuster. Do I need to hire someone to help me with my claim?

A. You have a right to hire outside claims help; however, be aware that it comes at a cost as public adjusters are paid a percentage of your claim and legal assistance is often charged at an hourly rate. The insurance premiums you pay include the services of a claims adjuster when it comes time to file a claim. Their job is to serve you and help you recover and rebuild?if you’re not satisfied with the results, you can contact the claims manager. Every natural disaster gives insurers an opportunity to do their best for you, and that should be your expectation.