What a Shocker: Florida Tops the List for Lightning Claims

By Loretta L. Worters, Vice President – Media Relations, Insurance Information Institute

Authorities believe a lightning strike caused a home to go up in flames in the Riverview area of Florida on Friday, June 14, ironically just days before Lightning Safety Awareness Week (June 23-29) commenced.

Often referred to as the lightning capital of the nation, it is no revelation that Florida ranked first for lightning caused homeowners insurance claims in 2018, with 7,108 claims, followed by Georgia (5,539) and California (4,909), a new addition to the line-up. Texas, which had ranked second in 2016, fell to fourth place (4,559).

The number of lightning-caused homeowners insurance claims decreased in 2018—the third straight year it has done so—yet the average cost per claim has soared since 2016.  The I.I.I. findings, based on national insurance claims numbers, determined that more than $900 million in lightning claims were paid out in 2018 to nearly 78,000 policyholders.  The cumulative value of claims caused by lightning rose six percent between 2016-2018.

With increased labor and construction costs as well as a consumer appetite for smart home products, it’s not surprising that lightning-related homeowners insurance claims costs have risen.  The average cost per claim rose eight percent from 2017 to 2018. However, the average cost per claim between 2016 and 2018 increased 21 percent – a veritable bolt from the blue!

 

I.I.I. Report: Patchwork of state marijuana laws causing headaches for employers, insurers

Today Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker is reportedly going to sign into law a bill that legalizes recreational marijuana in the state. That makes Illinois the eleventh state (plus D.C.) to legalize marijuana for adult use.

Click to enlarge.

But as medical and recreational marijuana legalization spreads, concerns about what this means for workplace safety and workers compensation continue to grow. What is the impact of legal marijuana on workplace safety, employer duties and obligations and workers compensation insurance?

Today, the I.I.I. published a report that examines the current state of the issue. (Download the report here.)

Haze of confusion: How employers and insurers are affected by a patchwork of state marijuana laws” dives into the following questions:

  • How does marijuana intoxication work and how might it impact workplace safety?
  • What accommodations, if any, are employers expected to provide for workers that use marijuana?
  • Does workers compensation insurance provide benefits to injured employees testing positive for marijuana? What about reimbursement to injured workers for medical marijuana?

Unfortunately, none of these questions have straightforward answers. Every state’s laws and regulations governing these issues are different, not to mention that federal law prohibits marijuana outright. To complicate matters further, state laws and regulations are constantly changing. Employment and insurance activities once prohibited are often now permitted – or required.

Click to enlarge.

Legal marijuana isn’t going away. Employers and insurers will continue to grapple with a rapidly changing environment, perhaps for years to come.

To learn more, download the report here.

From the I.I.I. Daily: Our most popular content, June 14 to June 20

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Are impact-resistant roof shingles all they’re cracked up to be? The IBHS is on the case

Getty Images

By Jennifer Ha, Head of Editorial and Publications, Insurance Information Institute 

Hail damage is a growing problem in large regions of the United States and causes about $1 billion in damage to crops and property each year, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). As such, after years of field and lab research, the Insurance Institute for Business Home and Safety (IBHS) has recently released the results of its first hail impact performance program—the IBHS Impact Resistance Test Protocol for Asphalt Shingles—designed to track impact-resistant roofing products and to demonstrate the IBHS performance standard for impact-resistant shingles.

To test its standard, IBHS bought the most widely purchased impact-resistant shingles available to consumers and tested them in its lab under simulated real-world conditions, which it has now published on its website. The site includes disclosures, test standards and Member-only data.

Have a disaster plan for your small business

Owning a small business has many rewards, like freedom, independence and the chance to financially benefit from your own hard work.  But there are also major challenges, like long hours, hungry competitors, and cash-flow problems.

One of the challenges that lands squarely on the shoulders of the small business owner is risk management. Whereas larger firms have the funds to hire specialists whose sole concern is identifying and preparing for threats to the business, Arthur the accountant and Mia the mover must take on that role themselves.

Natural disasters are a type of risk that can strike a business at any time. Luckily for Arthur and Mia, business insurance often comes with loss prevention expertise offered by many insurance carriers to their clients. An agent or broker can create a disaster and recovery plan customized for any business.

Here is a list of disaster planning tips State Farm® offers for small businesses, they include:

Safety first

  • Take time to plan evacuation routes and exits from your facility and mark them.
  • Install proper emergency lighting and exit signs to help show the way in case of power failure.
  • Designate staff “safety wardens” to guide and assist any emergency efforts, including regular drills.
  • Businesses should conduct emergency training exercises with all employees as frequently as needed to reinforce proper reaction times and responses.
  • Identify appropriate shelter spaces, such as a basement or storm cellar, in your facility for emergencies that may require them. If there is no basement in your building, go to the center of a small interior room on the lowest level away from windows or outside walls, such as a closet or interior hallway. Make sure spaces are kept clear of items that would limit their capacity or safety.
  • For more information about emergency safety procedures, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Secure your assets

  • Contact a qualified contractor to discuss risk mitigation construction techniques for your building or office.
  • As an added precaution, you may also want to research places where you could temporarily relocate your operations if disaster strikes.
  • Maintain a comprehensive, up-to-date inventory of the items and equipment used in your business. Consider capturing these assets in photographs or video and securing the images and inventory files offsite.
  • Institute regular backup procedures for critical software and data to help ensure your business maintains access to the digital infrastructure it needs.
  • A business natural disaster plan will help get you up and running.

Following a disaster, you’ll want to resume business as quickly as possible:

  • Keep a name and telephone number list of contractors or repair firms who could make emergency temporary repairs or board up windows should some of your buildings be damaged.
  • Maintain a list of key suppliers, creditors, customers, and employees you need to contact about the state of your operation.
  • Construct a financial plan to cover continuing payroll expenses and debt obligations.

 

 

An open letter to college graduates from I.I.I. CEO Sean Kevelighan

 

June 2019

Dear College Graduate:

Congratulations! You made it!

Graduation isn’t an end, but a beginning. As you embark on your career path, please allow me to offer a few observations and some valuable guidance that others have shared with me:

  • Have an upward vision. Know where you want to go in life but understand that worthwhile journeys seldom follow a straight path; sometimes moving sideways creates a clearer route to the top.
  • Remember that what got you “here” won’t necessarily get you to “there.” Take stock of what’s around you and look for new skills and points of view that can contribute to success.
  • Be open to new challenges. You may find new perspectives on—and outlets for—your passions.

The last bit of advice is kind of familiar to those of us in the insurance industry. “I never considered a career in insurance when I was a student” is a pretty familiar refrain. Our team at the Insurance Information Institute includes an actuary who studied journalism, an economist who studied literature, and other dedicated professionals who’ve come to insurance from a wide variety of educational and professional backgrounds. Why did we all end up choosing insurance as a career? Because we have discovered what more than 2.5 million folks currently working in our industry already knew: That insurance careers offer virtually limitless opportunities to earn, learn, grow and make lasting contributions to your community every day.

So, if you haven’t yet considered a career in insurance, then you’re in good company. Because for 350 years, our industry has been driving innovation, embracing change and building a safer, more prosperous world. That’s why the I.I.I. and our member companies are proudly leading the charge to build a workforce that’s responsive to the needs of the people we serve.

We wish you all the best and hope you will choose insurance as a career.

 

Sincerely,

Sean M. Kevelighan

CEO

The Insurance Information Institute

 

Insurance protection for a rainy day

I snapped this picture in southern Georgia. No outdoor weddings that day.

June weather in New York City can be fickle. As the I.I.I.’s own Brent Carris reported, this fickleness can lead to chaos for the city’s outdoor music festivals, like the recent fiasco at this year’s Gov Ball. Carris noted that event organizers will often have event cancellation insurance to protect themselves financially.

But this got me thinking: is there rain insurance?

Weather insurance

The answer: yes, actually. It’s usually called “weather insurance” – and covers financial losses resulting from adverse weather, including rain. Typically, weather insurance is useful if you’re planning an outdoor event, like a wedding or a bar mitzvah. Commercial events can also buy this insurance, like fairs or festivals.

According to Trusted Choice, weather insurance is often tailored to a specific event’s needs. For example, a sailing regatta in San Francisco might want to be covered for excessive fog, whereas a baseball tournament in Arizona might want to be covered for extreme temperatures. Of course, these covered perils can be combined: it gets hot in southern Florida and rains a lot, so you might want to cover your golf tournament for both high temperatures and precipitation. Plus, you know, hurricanes.

How the coverage gets triggered also depends on the event: one-day events might want their policies to kick in if a certain amount of rain falls over a certain amount of time. Other events that last multiple days or weeks might want the trigger to be if rainfall or temperatures exceed their averages during the policy period.

Special event insurance

Okay, cool, that means I can protect myself in case I have to cancel my invitational street hockey tournament. But what if I have to cancel or postpone for non-weather reasons? That’s where “special event insurance” comes in. It’s broader than just plain weather insurance and will cover other causes of cancellation.

In the case of a wedding, special event insurance can cover cancellation due to, among other things: death or illness of a key participant, or if the bride or grooms is suddenly called to military duty. You can also cover your gifts in case they’re stolen or damaged. You can even cover your losses if one of your third-party providers can’t uphold their promises to you. For example, you could be covered if the bridal salon goes out of business and you have to get a dress somewhere else, or the photographer fails to show up and you need to deputize your cousins to take pictures with their smartphones.

Ticket insurance

It’s not just event organizers who can get insurance protection, though. There are also products to protect attendees. For example, Allianz calls its product “Global Assistance Event Ticket Protector Insurance,” which roughly translates into English as “ticket insurance”.

According to the Ticketmaster website, this insurance will reimburse you 100 percent of your ticket (including taxes and shipping) if any of a long list of things happens that prevents you from enjoying your event. Illness or serious injury, for example. Military duty is also covered (who knew there was such a high risk of someone being whisked away to military duty on short notice?). You’ll also be covered if a traffic accident keeps you from getting to the venue, or if your plane is delayed getting in.

However, being lazy is not a covered cause of loss: “Please note that no benefits will be extended for cancellations due to simply changing your mind.”

From the I.I.I. Daily: Our most popular content, June 7 to June 13

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FEMA publishes flood insurance claim records going back to 1978

“New York City, USA – October 31, 2012: In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy the Battery Park Underpass is seen completely flooded along the West Street entrance looking north in Lower Manhattan.”

On June 11 the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) published data covering more than 2 million flood insurance claim records going back to 1978 on its OpenFEMA website. This is a giant leap towards helping scientists, policy-makers, and the public understand how the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) works, where flood damage occurs, and what the costs are to the nation.

“This data demonstrates FEMA’s commitment to build a culture of preparedness by providing insights to our stakeholders that can help close the nation’s insurance gap,” said Dr. Daniel Kaniewski, FEMA’s Deputy Administrator for Resilience, in a news release. That gap is quite sizable: FEMA estimates that only 3 percent of homeowners have flood insurance.

Private insurers, who have been carefully getting back into covering flooding in recent years should be able to use the data to grow in the flood insurance space. “The private market will now be able to identify areas with prior flood claims and historical flood insurance policies,” said David Maurstad, FEMA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Insurance and Mitigation.

As useful as these data could be, the dataset does not include the exact addresses of affected buildings, to protect policyholders’ privacy. It does include ZIP code-level data on where policyholders received payments. A home buyer might not be able to learn the full history of flood risk for a property, as this South Carolina Post and Courier article points out.

However, the published data do enable analysis of how coverage has changed in a geographic area, and where NFIP claims have been filed for more than 40 years. Information such as: state, census tract, ZIP code, year of loss, and amount paid on claims are included. The dataset will be updated every 45 to 60 days and delivers the most specific amount of geographic data possible.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has already used the data to create this animation showing the location of every NFIP claim in the contiguous United States, from 1970 through 2018.

The I.I.I. has more insights about flood insurance here.

Human-wildlife conflict insurance: the next frontier for microinsurance?

AB Consultants and IIED at a consultative forum, Kenya

Most wildlife in New York City is of the insect or rodent kind (though a peregrine falcon did once hang out on my air conditioner for a few minutes.) Not so in many parts of the world, including Africa, Asia and parts of North America. And as human populations continue to expand into natural habitats, there arise the inevitable clashes between humans and wildlife.

There’s even a term for this phenomenon: “human-wildlife conflict” (HWC). The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) notes that this conflict includes wild animals destroying crops, killing livestock, damaging property – and even attacking (and injuring) humans themselves. Humans will often retaliate by killing wild animals to prevent future attacks.

One way to help communities at risk of wildlife conflict is (drumroll please) insurance. To learn more about this kind of insurance, I spoke with Barbara Chesire-Chabbaga, director and lead consultant for AB Consultants, an organization that aids in the development of microinsurance and digital financial services across Sub-Saharan Africa. Her company is actively working to develop a microinsurance product for human-wildlife conflict.

Human-wildlife conflict: deadly and costly

HWC is a reality of daily life in many places with high populations of both humans and wildlife. Take Kenya: more than 65 percent of wildlife lives outside protected areas, which means human-wildlife interaction is inevitable in communities that live near those protected areas.

Unfortunately, death and injury (for both humans and wildlife) are not uncommon outcomes of HWC. But crop damage is the most frequent cause of loss from HWC. Chabbaga noted that, in Kenya “close to 3,000 cases of crop damage were recorded between the years of 2015 and the first 2 months of 2017, compared with 148 death and injury incidences.” And these numbers probably underreport the frequency of HWC crop damage.

Furthermore, crop damage can have significant ramifications for communities that depend on farming and livestock rearing. A single attack that leads to crop damage could impact that year’s harvest, which can result in a financial domino effect that reverberates long after the attack.

Compensation schemes as financial mitigation

Chabbaga did note that compensation schemes for HWC are not a new idea, especially in areas with high rates of human-wildlife interaction. Indeed, financial mitigation for HWC has long been believed to yield significant benefits, by offsetting the actual losses themselves and by reducing wildlife retaliatory killings. Some of these schemes include the Big Life Foundation, the Amboseli Trust for Elephants and the Maasai Wilderness and Conversation Trust.

A typical compensation scheme will reimburse farmers for certain amounts if a wild animal destroyed their property, subject to certain conditions (like making sure that their farms are well-enclosed, and animals are well herded and away from protected areas, for example).

But straight compensation schemes have their limitations. They can be expensive, and often rely on donations, which leads to issues with financial stability and sustainability. Chabbaga cited a compensation scheme in the Mwaluganje elephant sanctuary, in which farmers yielded farmland for conservation purposes and were compensated yearly. But the scheme collapsed when funding ran out.

That’s where insurance comes in. “Microinsurance has the ability to pool larger numbers, employ technology and manage the entire client journey from registration to claim settlement in such a way that client value and the business cases are well-balanced,” argued Chabbaga.

Human-wildlife conflict insurance: better compensation, more sustainable?

“Human wildlife conflict is a new risk that has previously not been considered by insurance companies, but there is a general optimistic overview that HWC is an insurable risk worth exploring,” said Chabbaga.

AB Consultants is currently working on developing just that kind of HWC microinsurance in partnership with the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED) and funded by the Darwin Initiative. Referred to as “Livelihoods Insurance From Elephants” (LIFE), the project is currently focused on two regions in Sri Lanka and Kenya, to determine how best to design an insurance product that can reduce losses for small-holder farmers and other low-income households from HWC. As you can probably guess from the name, the project is currently focused specifically on human-elephant conflict.

The LIFE project is still in the development phase and Chabbaga said that they’re still toying with the specific details of how to structure the policy, but she did give some idea of what the insurance will look like. “With microinsurance, the idea is to bundle as many risks as possible. With that in mind, it is possible that the scheme will include a majority, if not all, HWC related risks i.e. crop and property damage, death and injury.” Microinsurance typically has minimal exclusions, but for HWC insurance an important exclusion would be to deny coverage to a loss incurred by illegal activities such as poaching or trespassing into protected areas.

Consumers in the two pilot regions have so far expressed positive attitudes towards this insurance. The plan is to begin product rollout in January 2020.

For more information about microinsurance more generally, check out our webpage.