Archive for August, 2009

One major wildfire (known as the Station Fire) and several smaller ones continue to burn in Southern California according to latest information from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. So far the Station Fire has burned 85,760 acres and has left two firefighters dead. The fire is about 5 percent contained. Homeowners and businesses that need evacuation or claims filing tips should check out information from the Insurance Information Network of California (IINC). You can also follow the latest updates on the fires from IINC on Twitter. I.I.I. research shows that most of the large fires with significant property damage have occurred in California where some of the fastest developing counties are in forest areas. In fact eight of the 10 most costly wildfires in United States history occurred in California. Check out I.I.I. wildfire statistics.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) this morning said Tropical Storm Danny remains a minimal tropical storm, but warned interests from the Carolinas northward to New England and Canada to monitor its progress. Earlier today the center of Danny was located about 355 miles south of Cape Hatteras North Carolina and moving toward the north-northwest near 9 miles per hour. A tropical storm watch is in effect for part of the North Carolina coast, meaning that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area and in this case within the next 24 hours. The center of Danny is expected to pass offshore of the outer banks of North Carolina early Saturday. The NHC also warned that large swells from Danny are expected to produce dangerous surf conditions and life-threatening rip currents along the U.S. East Coast during the next day or so. Waves from Hurricane Bill two weeks ago claimed the lives of two people: a swimmer in Florida and a 7-year-old girl who was among a group of spectators swept out to sea by a large wave while watching the surf in Maine’s Acadia National Park. Check out I.I.I. information on hurricane and windstorm deductibles.

A memorial service for Dr. William E. Bailey J.D., CPCU, special counsel to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) since 1986 and prominent industry spokesperson will be held September 26, 2009, at 11am at Trinity Church, 730 Main Street, Waltham, MA. Dr. Bailey died of cancer on Friday, Aug. 21. He was 68 years old and resided in Chelsea, MA, with his wife, Rene. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that a donation be made to the Scholarship Fund at Belmont Hill School, 350 Prospect Street, Belmont MA, 02478-2662, in memory of Bill Bailey, Class of 1958. “All of us will greatly miss Bill’s multitude of talents, perceptive intelligence, life-long dedication to learning, quick wit and boundless enthusiasm. We also remember with appreciation Bill’s outstanding work in disaster communications, having served as director of the first Hurricane Insurance Information Center following Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and working at the scene of every major disaster since, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005,” said Dr. Robert Hartwig, president of the I.I.I. Stories in National Underwriter and Business Insurance pay tribute to Dr. Bailey.

Employers face an average increase of 10.5 percent in healthcare costs in the next 12 months, consistent with a year ago, but still in the double digits. A survey by Aon Consulting of more than 60 leading healthcare insurers, representing more than 100 million insured individuals, projects that healthcare costs will increase by 10.4 percent for HMOs, 10.4 percent for POS plans, 10.7 percent for PPOs and 10.5 percent for CDH plans. While these increases are slightly lower than one year ago, Aon says the sluggish economy is creating a worse situation for many employers and employees with lower wage increases, and in some cases, salary freezes. Wellness and health promotion initiatives are critical in the next phase of lowering the medical trend rate, according to Aon. For more on this story, check out an August 25 online article at Business Insurance by Joanne Wojcik. Check out additional I.I.I. facts and stats on health insurance.

With the East Coast of the United States breathing a sigh of relief after Hurricane Bill moved on north, finally making landfall in Newfoundland, Canada as a weak Category 1 hurricane on August 23, attention is now turning to a new tropical wave in the Atlantic. The National Hurricane Center this morning said there is a high chance (>50 percent) of this system becoming a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours.  It said upper level winds are forecast to become more conducive for development during the next day or so as the system, currently centered about 300 miles northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, moves west-northwestward around 20 miles per hour. We’ll be monitoring its development. Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on hurricanes.

Economic factors have likely played a role in the 10 percent decline in the total number of workplace fatalities recorded in the United States in 2008, according to a preliminary report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). BLS said preliminary figures indicate a total of 5,071 workplace fatalities were recorded in 2008 – the smallest annual preliminary total since 1992 – down from 5,657 in 2007. Based on these preliminary counts, the rate of fatal injury for U.S. workers in 2008 was 3.6 fatal work injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, down from the final rate of 4.0 in 2007. BLS cited the impact of economic factors, noting that average hours worked at the national level fell by one percent in 2008. Some industries that have historically accounted for a significant share of worker fatalities, such as construction, experienced larger declines in employment or hours worked. Workplace fatalities in the private construction sector in 2008 declined by 20 percent from the updated 2007 total, twice the all-worker decline of 10 percent. Fatal workplace falls, which had risen to a series high in 2007, also declined by 20 percent in 2008. The BLS findings appear to tally with a recent report from NCCI Holdings Inc showing a continuing decrease in workers compensation claims frequency in 2008. Check out I.I.I. info on workers comp.

A severe thunderstorm that swept across New York City on Tuesday night left nearly 100 trees felled and hundreds more damaged in the city’s Central Park. An August 19 article in the New York Times cites officials at the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation and at the Central Park Conservancy saying this is the most severe destruction the park’s trees have sustained in decades. Trees in several other city parks also suffered significant damage. The storm is a reminder that thunderstorm losses can be substantial. A recent MunichRe Webinar noted that severe thunderstorms in the United States caused estimated insured losses of $6.1 billion (estimated overall losses of $8.9 billion) in the first six months of 2009. This was more than first-half losses from flood, winter storms and wildfires combined.

Hurricane Bill has strengthened to a Category 4 storm out over the Atlantic. National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecasters say the storm is expected to strengthen some more during the next 24 hours and that interests in the Leeward Islands and Bermuda should monitor the progress of Bill. Current tracks put Bill passing between Bermuda and the U.S. mainland this weekend and then moving up towards Canada. Early this morning, the center of Bill was located about 460 miles east of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean. To put it in context, a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale denotes a storm with sustained winds of 131-155 miles per hour. If a storm of this strength makes landfall extremely dangerous winds causing devastating damage are expected. A storm of this strength would cause extensive damage to properties and windborne debris could injure or kill. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and fallen trees could cut off residential areas for days to weeks. Power will be unavailable for weeks. Hurricane Charley, which made landfall in southwest Florida in 2004, and Hurricane Hugo, which made landfall in South Carolina in 1989, are both examples of Category Four hurricanes at landfall. Charley and Hugo rank as the fifth and seventh most costly hurricanes in U.S. history, respectively. So there is much reason for insurers to hope that Hurricane Bill will stay far out at sea. Check out I.I.I. hurricane facts and stats.

The indictments of three individuals allegedly responsible for five corporate data breaches including the single largest data breach in history is a reminder of the risk businesses face from this threat. Yesterday’s indictment by the Department of Justice describes a scheme in which more than 130 million credit and debit card numbers together with account information were stolen from payment processor Heartland Payment Systems, 7-Eleven Inc and supermarket chain Hannaford Brothers Co. For more on this story, check out today’s New York Times article by Brad Stone. ID theft remains the number one consumer complaint received by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), accounting for 32 percent of all fraud complaints in 2007. Some 258,427 identity theft complaints were reported to the FTC in 2007, up 5 percent on the previous year. Check out I.I.I. info on ID theft.

After a slow start to the Atlantic hurricane season, three named storms, including the first hurricane of the 2009 season are now in play. Hurricane Bill with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph was located about 1160 miles east of the Lesser Antilles early this morning. National Hurricane Center forecasters say Bill is moving quickly toward the west-northwest at 22 mph and that strengthening is forecast in the next day or so. Bill could become a major hurricane by Wednesday. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Claudette (now a tropical depression) became the first storm to make U.S. landfall on the Florida Panhandle early this morning, though it was not expected to cause significant flooding or wind damage. Tropical Depression Ana was also moving through the northeastern Caribbean though forecasters said it was likely to dissipate later today. Check out I.I.I. hurricane facts and stats. Check out I.I.I. information on flood insurance.