The Week in a Minute, 02/02/18

The III’s Michael Barry briefs our membership every week on key insurance related stories. Here are some highlights. 

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says three of the five-costliest U.S. hurricanes in history occurred in 2017.  The top five, in order, are Katrina (2005), Harvey (2017), Maria (2017), Sandy (2012), and Irma (2017).

U.S. property/casualty insurers’ overall profit and underwriting performance between January-September 2017 produced the second-worst nine-month profit result since the Great Recession ended.

California’s insurers received nearly 45,000 claims and will pay out $11.8 billion in insured losses from the October and December 2017 wildfires, the state’s Department of Insurance announced.

How to be a responsible Super Bowl party host

Super Bowl Sunday is fast approaching and you may be planning a party to cheer on the Eagles or the Patriots.  If you’re serving alcohol you may want to familiarize yourself with social host liability laws in your state.

Auto accidents spike following Super Bowl games but they’re not all alcohol related.  A study conducted in 2003 by the University of Toronto found that fans of the losing team were much more likely to get into an accident than fans of the winning team. In the losing state the number of crashes increased 68 percent after the game, and only 6 percent in the winning state. Accidents climbed 46 percent in the “neutral” states.

Here are some helpful tips on how you can protect yourself and your guests:

  • Encourage guests to pick a designated driver who will refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages so that they 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.

 

This I.I.I. article has more helpful suggestions about responsible social hosting.

 

 

Americans are becoming less fearful of driverless vehicles

A survey published last week by AAA found that Americans are warming up to the idea of driverless vehicles with 63 percent of U.S. drivers reporting feeling afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle down significantly from 78 percent in early 2017.

Men (52 percent) are less afraid than women (73 percent) of riding in a self-driving vehicle, and millennials are the least afraid (49 percent).

 “Education, exposure and experience will likely help ease consumer fears as we steer toward a more automated future,” said AAA Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations Director Greg Brannon.

The survey also found that U.S. drivers continue to report high confidence in their own driving abilities. Three-quarters (73 percent) of U.S. drivers consider themselves better-than-average drivers. Men tend to be most confident in their driving skills with 8 in 10 considering their driving skills better than average. This is despite of the fact that more than 90 percent of crashes are the result of human error.

 

WCRI conference: The annual deep dive into workers comp

If I were to pick out the hottest topics in workers compensation these days, these three would be near the top:
• Opioids.
• Marijuana.
• How technology will affect the industry.
All three will be prominently featured at the Workers Compensation Research Institute’s Annual Issues & Research Conference March 22 and 23 at the Westin Copley Place, Boston.
The research organization, known by its acronym, WCRI, has for more than three decades conducted deep, objective research into what makes the workers comp system tick. Its conference annually hosts about the deepest dive you can find into the intricacies of the largest commercial line of business. I attend every year, and am happy for the privilege.
This year attendees will hear the latest on how opioids affect the ability of workers to return to their job; how Americans deal with prescription drugs in the workplace; and how a major employer – United Airlines – addresses the issue.
And a University of Georgia researcher, Dr. David Bradford, will discuss his studies on the effect of medical marijuana programs on prescription drug spending.
And opening speaker Erica L. Groshen, former head of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, will look at how artificial intelligence, robots, driverless cars and such will affect the labor force. From the conference website:

She will argue that much of the hype about the future of work is either far too optimistic or to pessimistic. In addition, she will talk about how the official statistics are more important than ever.
They are the information infrastructure that we all need to see through the haze, so that we make good decisions for our companies, our communities and ourselves.

Conference details are here.

The week in a minute, 1/25/18

The III’s Michael Barry briefs our membership every week on key insurance related stories. Here are some highlights. 

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said this week the state’s policyholders should benefit from the “reduced taxes paid by insurance companies,” a reference to the recently-enacted federal tax reform law.

A tsunami warning was issued and then rescinded after a 7.9-magnitude earthquake occurred offshore, about 150 miles south of Kodiak, Alaska, on Tuesday morning, January 23.

Five workers were killed after a gas rig explosion in Quinton, Oklahoma on Monday, January 22.

 

Thomas wildfire to cost insurers between $1 billion and $2.5 billion

Catastrophe risk modeling firm RMS puts insured and reinsured losses stemming from the December Thomas fire in Southern California at somewhere between $1 billion and $2.5 billion, reports the Artemis blog.

The fire, which started on December 4, became the largest in California history and was followed by devastating mudslides in burned areas stripped of vegetation.

RMS estimates include losses from burning or smoke damage to personal and commercial lines and insured losses due to business interruption and additional living expenses. They don’t include automobile and agriculture losses, or damage related to the recent mudslides.

 

The I.I.I. has Facts & Statistics on wildfires here.

Flood insurance after the government shutdown

At 12:01 Saturday, the U.S. government shut down. Here is what that means for the National Flood Insurance Program, as taken from the NFIP’s web site (last updated Wednesday):

FEMA and Congress have never failed to honor the flood insurance contracts in place with NFIP policyholders. In the unlikely event the NFIP’s authorization lapses, FEMA would still have authority to ensure the payment of valid claims with available funds.

However, FEMA would stop selling and renewing policies for millions of properties in communities across the nation. Nationwide, the National Association of Realtors estimates that a lapse might impact approximately 40,000 home sale closings per month.

 

Actuarial science vs. Neuroscience

I get interviewed by a lot of newspapers, magazines and TV stations, but maybe the most interesting one came last year when I spoke to David Scharfenberg of the Boston Globe about neuroscience and actuarial science.

David’s article looks at the criminal justice system and suggests that people under the age of 25 should be classified and punished differently from people older than that. Their young-ish minds aren’t fully developed.

He points to scientific studies and programs, but he wanted to talk to me about insurance. The I.I.I., of course, has no opinion on criminal justice, but famously, auto insurers charge younger drivers more than older drivers, and the rates generally change about age 25.

From the article, here is what I said:

The insurance industry’s decades-old imposition of higher rates on young adult drivers is . . . rooted in hard numbers.

The data show a significant decline in the number of accidents for drivers over the age of 25, because they’re more experienced and more mature. And property casualty insurers — more than 2,000 in all — have to retest that proposition year after year, in order to justify the elevated rates to state regulators.

“It’s like, ‘OK, here we are in Arkansas — well, looks like we’re going to be drawing the line at 25, 26 again,’ ” Lynch says. “Now, we’re looking at Massachusetts — oh, there we are again.” The industry, he says, has known for decades what the white coats in the lab are now confirming.

“We were there,” he says, “long before the neuroscientists.”

Postscript: This article was actually published in November, but I only heard about it in mid-January when a prisoner at a correctional center in Massachusetts asked for more information. I sent him this link from our Facts and Statistics page.

The overlooked employee lawsuit risk of family-owned businesses

One might think that family-owned and operated businesses would be relatively immune from employee lawsuits, but that’s not the case according to a recent Gen Re article.

The reasons family-owned businesses get sued include: most family owned businesses employ at least one non-relative; the non-relative is likely to be first to be fired when the business is struggling; and family members are reluctant to discipline each other for bad workplace behavior, especially if the family patriarch is the one misbehaving.

The article gives several examples of lawsuits against family businesses and the awards paid out, concluding that a family-owned business would benefit from including employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) as a part of its insurance package.

 

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