State Farm Reverses Course, Stays In Florida

February 2, 2010

The Office of Insurance Regulation of the State of Florida released a statement about State Farm Insurance Company’s intent to leave the State of Florida. Commissioner Kevin McCarthy issued a consent order that ends the pending litigation between State Farm and the Insurance Commissioner’s office concerning State Farm’s plan to leave Florida’ property insurance market. State Farm will now continue writing business in Florida’s residential insurance market, and Citizens Property Insurance dodges a bullet that could have been fatal.

The Florida legislature established Citizens Property Insurance, the high risk pool, in 2002, in response to insurance companies that either went bankrupt, cancelled or pulled out of Florida because of repeated hurricanes. So, Citizens Property Insurance places the Florida taxpayers at risk for residential losses. Since 2002, storm after storm have struck Florida, nearly bankrupting Citizens. And Citizens is only one big storm away from ruin. So, when State Farm, the largest residential property insurer in Florida announced that they were leaving the state, the Insurance Commissioner’s office panicked.

This allowed State Farm to figuratively bend the Commissioner over the couch and have its way with him. Prior to State Farm’s announcement that they were leaving Florida, the company requested a rate increase of over 65% which was denied by the Commissioner. But rather than wave goodbye to Florida’s largest insurer, the Commissioner has granted the smaller…yet generous…rate increase of 14.8%. And, it is allowing State Farm to get rid of 125,000 policies that are arguably the highest risk policies they have on the books.

So, not only does State Farm get a rate increase on all policies, but it gets to keep its most profitable business and shove the riskier business off onto the taxpayers of the State of Florida. And for Citizens, 125,000 risky policies is better than 860,000.

You’ve got to admire that kind of moxy. State Farm, being the largest insurer in Florida, took full advantage of their market position and finally showed the State of Florida who is the boss. The regulators and the Florida legislature had little choice and no options but to give in to State Farm’s demands. The press release issued by the Commissioner’s office was a pitiful attempt to save face and spin the story to look like the Commish’s office was protecting Florida’s property owners.

Don’t you wonder if the terms of the consent order was what State Farm wanted all along?

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Insurance Quotes: Save Hundreds Of Dollars, Prevent Financial Disaster

June 22, 2009

Insurance quotes are a terrific way to help lower your monthly expenditures. I used a quote service earlier this year and saved $590 on my homeowners and car insurance package.

In today’s economy millions of people have lost their jobs. Millions more will lose jobs as the economy worsens. Millions of unemployed persons have stopped looking for new jobs, which skews the national unemployment figures, and makes the unemployment rate appear smaller than it actually is.

Some people have had to accept pay cuts just to keep their jobs. Add to that the number of unemployed people who just closed an economy-sensitive business.

I have a good friend who is a home designer. She has been in business for over 25 years, and was a nationally-renowned designer. In 2008, her business stopped like turning off a water faucet. She has just gone out of business. Will her business ever come back? No one knows.

Colleges and universities across America just finished commencement ceremonies, where tens of thousands of young graduates got their degree and a handshake. However, job prospects look bleak for this graduating class. According to an ABC News story, last year over 51% of graduates had a job when they left school. This year, the number is only 20%. But they still live in homes and drive cars every day.

An increasing number of people are allowing their insurance policies to lapse, or they are cancelling them outright. They simply made a decision that they cannot pay the premiums anymore.

What a horrible and tragic decision! Cancel your cell phone…your cable TV…your internet connection…your gym membership…your electrical service. But don’t go without insurance!

“Cancel my home’s electrical service??” I hear you sputter. “Have you lost your mind?”

Listen to me. You could temporarily live without electrical service in your home and your life would not be destroyed. But just have ONE insurance loss without coverage, and your financial life could easily be destroyed for the rest of your life.

A fire, windstorm or flood could wipe out your home or business. An auto accident could destroy your vehicle. If the accident is your fault, the claimant could sue you for damages, which could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In every example shown above, those people have homes, cars and businesses. In the area of auto ownership, every state in the USA and every Canadian province requires auto insurance by law. So, if you cancel your auto insurance, not only are you without coverage, but you are also committing a misdemeanor in most jurisdictions.

In addition, if your home, business or vehicle is financed, your lender requires you keep Property coverage on the property at all times. If the lender finds out that you have cancelled your coverage, they likely have the right to declare you in default on your loan, and require payment of the balance. They could repossess your car, home or business. At the very least, they could purchase coverage on your car, home or business property for the loan balance and charge you for it. This is called “forced-placed coverage,” and is very expensive, inferior coverage.

Before you make a choice to cancel your insurance policy, stop and consider getting insurance quotes that could lower your insurance premiums.

The process of getting insurance quotes is simple and IT COSTS YOU NOTHING! All you have to do is go online and use the search term “Insurance Quotes.” You’ll find hundreds of quote websites, all eager to get that quote for you.

Simply fill out an easy information form, giving the quote services details about what you want to insure and submit the form. Within minutes, you’ll begin receiving contacts from agents and insurance companies who want to compete for your business. Make sure that the coverage quoted are the same, and choose which vendor offers the best deal. Most times, the agent will do all the paperwork for you if you are switching from one company to another. Then, choose your new insurance company and breath easier with YOUR SAVINGS!!

My Insurance Quote website will get you great insurance quotes and also give you valuable claim strategies if you have a loss. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Think like a claims adjuster! No other insurance quote website can give you great rates AND claim strategies that WORK EVERY TIME!!

Get Insurance Quotes and Claim Strategies at:
InsuranceQuoteHQ.com


Property Insurance Claims: Take Photos

June 18, 2009

I just handled a burglary loss for a very nice woman in Atlanta. She decided to go to the market at about 8:30 pm on a Wednesday evening in late May. She began to drive toward the market and noticed four teenaged boys standing in a park very near her home. She hesitated for a moment, then continued to the market.

When she returned at 8:55 pm, she found that someone had broken through her back door and stole jewelry, cash, a TV, a laptop and some expensive handbags. Her claim totaled over $20,000. Only $1,500 of that were for repairs to the back door.

I provided a Contents Inventory Worksheet so she could list all the items stolen. She submitted the worksheet quickly. Unfortunately, she had no receipts or any other kind of documents to prove that she actually owned the stolen items. Even photos of her stuff would have helped to prove she owned it. But no photos either.

The insurance company wanted to pay some of the claim, but insisted that she provide some documentation. She could not. The insurance company denied the Contents portion of the loss, and paid her only $500 after assessing her $1,000 deductible.

Gentle readers, this is not an isolated incident in the claims process for property claims. Insurance companies are serious about holding down their claims cost. And it is YOUR responsibility to prove your claim.

You have a legal contract with the insurance company. Part of that legal contract requires you to provide proof of ownership of your contents. The insurance companies give a lot of latitude in these matters, but remember that they don’t have to.

Most people are not going to create a master file of all their receipts for the stuff they buy, and then keep that file in a fireproof box or off-site. So, most people who have a fire, flood, burglary, hurricane or water loss are going to be faced with proving ownership of their personal property.

So, remember this: The NUMBER ONE most important thing that you can do to prove ownership of your personal property is to PHOTOGRAPH IT.

Get a camcorder, or digital camera, or even disposable cameras. Go through your home or business and capture your personal property “on film.” Do it once a year, and then remember to update after every major purchase…like a new computer or flat-screen TV. Don’t leave anything out. Even photo inside drawers and closets.

Take the photos or video and place them off-site. I recommend a safe deposit box.

Then, in case of a disaster, you have some visual proof of your loss. You could review the video or photos and compile your inventory list. You could submit a copy of the photos or video as proof of ownership.

The photo/video process takes me an hour when I do it. And that’s filming in average sized home.

Don’t take a chance by being unprepared. It could cost you tens of thousands of dollars at claim time.


Restoration Contractors: Liability Issues That Can Affect YOU!

June 16, 2009

If you are the victim of an insured loss, such as a fire, flood, tornado or hurricane, you will likely have to hire a restoration contractor to complete repairs on your home. However, here is an issue that most property owners never consider…until it’s too late.

That issue is the liability insurance of the restoration contractor. No matter if you are the owner of residential or commercial property, you could have major liability issues in the process of the restoration.

Restoration contractors are customarily general contractors. That means that they manage the work of sub-contractors. They may hire plumbers, framing crews, roofers, electricians, drywall crews, painters and other artisans to complete the work on your property. Many times, the restoration contractor has a crew of workers on his payroll. But, there are some restoration contractors that only act as construction managers.

There’s nothing wrong with that arrangement if the job gets done on time and on budget.

You’ll be entering into a contract with the contractor you choose. In addition, you will be granting authority for your contractor to work on your premises, as well as his sub-contractors. Here is where you must take care to protect yourself.

In the pre-contract process of verifying your chosen contractor’s credentials, you will have required the contractor to provide you with a current copy of his insurance certificate. Take a few minutes and phone the insurance company and confirm that the coverage is in effect, and that the policy dates are correct.

You must insist that the restoration contractor carry General Liability, Completed Operations and Workers Compensation insurance (if he has employees). In addition, you must insist that each sub-contractor furnish the same insurance certificates. The only exception would be a contractor who worked alone and had no employees. That fellow would not need Workers Compensation insurance.

Another very important strategy is to insist that ALL the contractors place you on their insurance policies as an “Additional Named Insured.” That way, if anything were to happen in the course of repairs, such as a worker injury or some other liability issue for which they are liable, THEIR insurance policy would defend and indemnify on your behalf.

This one strategy could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in a lawsuit award, and thousands in legal fees defending the suit.

Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to liability and lawsuits. Use this strategy!


Hurricane Preparedness: Prune Your Losses

June 8, 2009

Hurricane preparedness goes beyond making sure your insurance policies are up to date. There are some practical things you can do around your property, whether home or business, that can lower the risk of storm damage.

The National Climactic Data Center published statistics for 2007 that showed property damage from storms at over $7.4 billion. 2008 totals were higher with the Texas hurricanes. I imagine that you do not want to be part of the 2009 storm statistics.

Let’s concentrate on the simplest remedies. When storms arise, the exterior of your home can be damaged by those high winds and heavy rain. So, roofs, siding and windows are the first line of defense in a storm scenario.

Here are some tips for lowering your risk exposure:

• Make sure that your roofing is in good repair. Well-installed roofs are less susceptible to damage.
• Make sure that your siding is tightly attached to the building.
• If a storm is heading your way, consider boarding up your windows to protect them from being broken by flying debris.
• Caulk windows and doors to prevent wind-driven rain from entering around the openings.
• Cut down unhealthy trees on your property.
• Prune tree limbs that overhang your home or power lines, or overhang your neighbor’s property.
• Clean out roof gutters so rain doesn’t back up and cause interior water damage.
• Move your outside furniture and other personal property into inside storage so it is not blown against your building or a neighbor’s building.

With these tips accomplished, your property has much less exposure to damage from wind and rain. Of course, if your area is struck by a Category 4 or 5 hurricane, missing shingles and siding will be the least of your worries.

At that point, you’ll be glad you updated your insurance policy.

You DID update your policy, didn’t you?


Restoration Contractor Strategies: Getting The Best Value In Your Claim

May 30, 2009

I’ve written before about how to hire restoration contractors, and things to watch for. Now, here are a few tips on how to get the best prices for the restoration work you need to have completed.

• Make sure that the scope of damages is correct. You can usually get a copy of the scope of damages from your adjuster. The scope of damages lists the necessary work to be performed, not the prices.

• Make sure you get at least three estimates from three separate contractors. Inform the contractors that they are competing against other contractors.

• If any contractor finds needed repairs that are not listed on the scope of damage, insist that these repairs be listed on a supplemental estimate separate from the main estimate.

• Make sure that the general contractor bids include Overhead and Profit.

• Negotiate your claim with the insurance adjuster using the highest contractor bid. Many times, adjusters will use estimating software that has unit pricing far below market pricing. This is especially true after a major disaster such as a widespread hailstorm, tornado or hurricane.

• Once you have successfully negotiated the claim amount, go back to the three contractors and suggest that his contractors or suppliers offer better pricing. Economic times what they are today, some companies will drastically shave profits just to have the work.

• Ask your contractors to offer their professional input on ways to get the job done at reduced prices. He might recommend different floor covering, or different cabinets, or different countertops or light fixtures.

• Make a discounted offer to a contractor. Then shut your mouth. The first one who speaks loses.

• Tell the winning contractor that you prefer paying subcontractors and suppliers directly. This can be a win-win situation, since the contractor won’t have to front the money for materials. You can pay for materials out of the insurance proceeds. You can win because you won’t have to pay his overhead or profit for just paying bills.

• Don’t forget to have all vendors sign a Lien Waiver before receiving payment. No signature, no payment.

These strategies can save you thousands of dollars if you’re careful.


Seven Myths About Flood Insurance

May 28, 2009

Floods happen with great regularity in the United States. In recent years, we have witnessed entire cities underwater in the spring floods along the Mississippi River. However, floods can happen in unexpected areas and for unexpected reasons. Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to provide insurance protection for the hazard of flood.

The standard homeowner policy (HO-3) defines flood as follows:

“…A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of normally dry land areas due to:
1. The overflow of inland or tidal waters;
2. The unusual or rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source; or
3. Mudslides.

Remember Hurricane Katrina? The hurricane winds blew flood waters into areas that had never had floods before. The insurance industry denied thousands of claims, attributing the damages to flood. Thousands of property owners who were nowhere near a flood plain had their claims denied because they did not have flood insurance.

So, here are seven common myths about Flood Insurance.

Myth #1: Homeowners, renters, and business property insurance policies cover flood damage.

No, homeowners, renters, and business property insurance policies do not cover floods. The NFIP policy is a separate policy that does cover flood damage to a home or business. Contents coverage can also be added to the flood policy. Policies are available to property owners as well as property renters, whether home or business.

Myth #2: Only homeowners and business owners can buy flood insurance.

Fact is that most homeowners, renters, condo owners, and businesses in NFIP participating communities can buy flood insurance. Policy limits are:

Home and Condo Owners – $250,000 in structural coverage, $100,000 in contents coverage
Renters – $100,000 in contents coverage
Business owners and renters – $500,000 in structural coverage, $500,000 in contents coverage

Myth #3: You can’t buy flood insurance if you are in a high-risk zone.

Fact is that you can buy NFIP coverage no matter where you live, as long as your community participates in the NFIP.

Myth #4: You can’t buy flood insurance if you’ve been flooded before.

Fact is that as long as your community participates in NFIP, you can buy flood insurance.

Myth #5: You can’t buy flood insurance immediately before or during a flood.

Fact is that you can buy NFIP flood insurance any time. There is usually a 30-day waiting period before the effective date of the policy. Also, the policy does not cover a loss in progress, which is defined in the policy as a loss occurring at midnight on the date your policy goes into effect. So, the new policy won’t cover past or current losses, only losses after the policy goes into effect.

Myth #6: If you live in an area that is not a flood zone, you don’t need flood insurance.

Fact is that floods occur regularly in places that are not mapped flood zones. 25% of NFIP’s claims come from low-to-medium risk zones. On the other hand, if you live in a flood zone, you likely cannot finance a home loan without buying flood insurance.

Myth #7: FEMA disaster assistance will pay for flood damage.

Fact is that unless your area is declared a disaster area, there is no FEMA assistance. Fewer than 50% of floods are declared a disaster area. And, if you don’t have flood insurance when the flood occurs, you will have to buy and keep flood coverage to be eligible for future benefits.

Don’t allow your property to be damaged by flood without having the proper insurance coverage. Get the coverage you need, and don’t wait any longer.

For all the details about Flood Insurance, go to: http://www.floodsmart.gov