Tag Archives: Auto

Winter Storm Damage? Insurers Have You Covered

Most likely snowfall for #Blizzard2017 in the NY/NJ metro area now looks like this, per the National Weather Service New York:

While major cities in the Northeast may have been spared blizzard conditions, a strong winter storm is still unfolding and inland areas are watching the snow pile up.

Wondering if you’re covered for winter storm damage? Here’s the lowdown from the Insurance Information Institute:

Auto Policies

  • Vehicle crashes between two or more drivers caused by snowy and slippery roads are covered by liability insurance, which is required by most states. A car that crashes into an object would generally be covered under the optional collision portion of an auto policy.
  • Physical damage to a vehicle caused by heavy wind, flooding or fallen ice or tree limbs is covered under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto policy.

Homeowners Policies

Standard homeowners insurance covers:

  • Wind-related damage to a house, its roof, its contents and other insured structures on the property. Also, wind-driven snow or freezing rain that gets into the home because the home was damaged by wind.
  • Tree limbs that fall on a house or other insured structure on the property—this includes both the damage the tree inflicts on the house and the cost of removing the tree, generally up to about $500.
  • Damage from ice and other objects that fall on the home.
  • Damage to the house and its contents caused by weight of snow or ice that creates a collapse is covered.
  • Freezing conditions such as burst pipes or ice dams, a condition where water is unable to drain properly through the gutters and seeps into a house causing damage to ceilings and walls. However, there is generally a requirement that the homeowner has taken reasonable steps to prevent these losses by keeping the house warm and properly maintaining the pipes and drains.
  • Additional living expenses (ALE)—in the event that a home is severely damaged by an insured disaster. This would pay for reasonable expenses incurred by living elsewhere while the home is being fixed.
  • Damage caused by flooding is not covered by standard homeowners or renters insurance policies. Melting snow that seeps into a home from the ground up would be covered by flood insurance, which is provided by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, and a few private insurers. Flood insurance is available to both homeowners and renters.

Insurers Innovating To Prevent Driver Distraction

The distracted driving epidemic, and its impact on highway accidents and the cost of auto insurance, continues to be all over the news.

A 2016 underwriting loss of $7 billion for State Farm’s auto insurance business, announced earlier this week, prompted the latest wave of headlines (see Bloomberg report).

Smartphones and gadgets and screens installed in new cars are two major sources of distraction, the Wall Street Journal recently reported.

While technology is part of the problem, it is also part of the solution (see earlier T+C post). A number of insurers are already partnering with technology companies to offer solutions to prevent distracted driving.

Digital Insurance features some of the latest technologies introduced by insurers here. The list includes a distracted driving simulator brought into schools as part of Arbella Insurance’s Distractology program, as well as apps that integrate with usage-based insurance programs to curb distracted driving (see here and here).

An Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) white paper on how more auto accidents and larger claims are driving costs higher is available here.

I.I.I. advice on how to keep your auto insurance affordable here.

Insurers Active In Auto Crash Prevention Efforts

2016 may have been the deadliest year on the roads since 2007, with an estimated cost to society of $432 billion, according to preliminary data released by the National Safety Council (NSC).

“As many as 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016, a 6 percent increase over 2015 and a 14 percent increase over 2014—the most dramatic two-year escalation in 53 years.”

A recent Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) white paper on personal auto insurance offered this prescient warning:

“There has been an alarming increase in crashes and claims reported. This, combined with the cost of the claims themselves, has led to a dramatic rise in the overall loss cost.”

And:

Technology is both improving and complicating matters, making vehicles safer but at the same time amplifying possible driver distractions, as discussed in this New York Times article.

The NSC call for life-saving measures, includes:

Extend laws banning all cell phone use – including hands-free – to all drivers, not just teens; upgrade enforcement from secondary to primary in states with existing bans.

I.I.I. tips on how to keep your auto insurance affordable here.

Distracted Driving? There’s An App To Prevent That

Is Apple liable over a fatal car crash involving FaceTime? That’s the question being asked in a lawsuit filed against Apple by the family of a five-year-old girl killed in a Texas car crash.

Moriah Modisette was killed and her father seriously injured when driver Garrett Willhelm plowed into their car at 65 mph on a Texas highway on Christmas Eve 2014.

As reported by Fortune, Willhelm was chatting on FaceTime at the time of the crash, and the app was still running as rescue workers tried to extricate the injured passengers from the mangled car.

In the lawsuit, the family claims that Apple had failed to install a “lock-out” feature on FaceTime that would prevent drivers from using the app while on the road.

The lawsuit underscores why liability insurance and product liability insurance are important for businesses.

After years of decline in road fatalities, numbers were up 8 percent in 2015. Many believe the rise is due at least in part to distracted driving.

In 2014, 3,179 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes, and 431,000 people injured, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.

But apps are not all bad. Several app developers are working to create ways to help make your cellphone a tool in the fight against distracted driving, rather than a cause of it.

Check out DMV.org for distracted driving apps that incentivize safe driving by keeping your attention off your phone and on the road.

USA Today reviewed other apps aimed at preventing distracted driving here.

Growth Potential of Sharing Economy, and Insurance

If, like me, you’ve taken a ride to the airport with Uber, or looked into renting a holiday home via Airbnb, did you take a moment to think about your insurance coverage?

If the answer to that question is “no,” you’re not alone.

A recent public opinion survey from the Insurance Research Council (IRC) found that 56 percent of all adult Americans who said they have participated in the sharing economy indicated that they did not consider their insurance coverage at the time.

This is despite the fact that more than half of all respondents said that the sharing economy exposes the general population to increased risk.

Some 71 percent of respondents to the same survey reported little familiarity with the sharing economy, with 46 percent saying they were “not at all familiar” with the sharing economy, while 25 percent reported being “not too familiar.”

Survey respondents gave numerous reasons for not participating in the sharing economy. Unfamiliarity was cited most frequently (65 percent), while lack of need was cited by 60 percent and lack of interest by 54 percent.

However, a lack of insurance was the least cited reason for not participating.

Elizabeth Sprinkel, senior vice president of the IRC, noted:

“The substantial number of people with little experience or familiarity with the sharing economy suggests tremendous growth potential in the years ahead.”

And for insurers, too, we would add.

Check out a recent Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) presentation on the role of insurance in the sharing economy.

Other I.I.I. resources include information on car sharing and peer-to-peer car rental insurance as well as peer-to-peer home rental and homeowners insurance.

The IRC report, The Sharing Economy: Public Participation and Views, presents findings from an online survey conducted by GfK Public Affairs & Corporate Communications on behalf of the IRC.

A total of 1,105 online interviews were conducted for the study, using a sample drawn from GfK’s Knowledge Panel. Survey data were weighted to the U.S. population of adults aged 18 and above.

Self-Driving Cars Still Evolving

A fatal car accident involving a Tesla Model S in autonomous driving mode is drawing widespread scrutiny both in the United States and overseas.

Joshua Brown was killed in May this year when a tractor trailer made a left turn in front of his Tesla and the self-driving car failed to apply the brakes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it is investigating the incident and will examine the design and performance of the automated driving systems in use at the time of the crash.

Its preliminary evaluation of the incident doesn’t indicate any conclusion about whether the Tesla vehicle was defective, the NHTSA said.

In a blog post, Tesla noted that this is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where autopilot was activated:

“Among all vehicles in the U.S., there is a fatality every 94 million miles. Worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million miles. It is important to emphasize that the NHTSA action is simply a preliminary evaluation to determine whether the system worked according to expectations.”

Tesla further noted that neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied:

“The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S.”

As companies continue to innovate and invest in self-driving technology, the crash indicates that fully automated cars are still a thing of the future.

The crash also raises important concerns over regulation.

According to this New York Times article:

“Even as companies conduct many tests on autonomous vehicles at both private facilities and on public highways, there is skepticism that the technology has progressed far enough for the government to approve cars that totally drive themselves.”

And the Wall Street Journal reports:

“Tesla now risks being the test case that could prompt new safety regulations or laws limiting the deployment of self-driving technology.”

The crash also highlights liability concerns regarding this emerging technology. Most car crashes are caused by human error, but presumably the NHTSA investigation will also evaluate potential product liability on the part of the manufacturer.

The crux of the issue is weighing up the risk of crashes versus crashes avoided via the use of self-driving technology.

As the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) notes:

“As crash avoidance technology gradually becomes standard equipment, insurers will be able to better determine the extent to which these various components reduce the frequency and cost of accidents. They will also be able to determine whether the accidents that do occur lead to a higher percentage of product liability claims, as claimants blame the manufacturer or suppliers for what went wrong rather than their own behavior.”

Liability laws might evolve to ensure autonomous vehicle technology advances are not brought to a halt, the I.I.I. adds.

Distracted Drivers, Meet the Textalyzer

After years of decline in road fatalities, numbers were up 8 percent in 2015. Many believe the rise is due at least in part to distracted driving and advocates are looking to programs that have successfully curtailed drunk driving for potential solutions.

The New York Times reports that one idea from New York lawmakers, would give police officers a new digital device that is the equivalent of the Breathalyzer — a roadside test called the Textalyzer.

An officer arriving at the scene of a crash could ask for the phones of any drivers involved and use the Textalyzer to tap into the operating system to check for recent activity, according to the New York Times article.

“The technology could determine whether a driver had used the phone to text, email or do anything else that is forbidden under New York’s hands-free driving laws, which prohibit drivers from holding phones to their ears. Failure to hand over a phone could lead to the suspension of a driver’s license, similar to the consequences for refusing a Breathalyser.”

However, the proposed legislation faces hurdles to becoming law, including privacy concerns, even though the Textalyzer bill would not give the police access to contents of any emails or texts.

If the law were to pass in New York, some believe it could spread across other states in the same way that the hands-free rules did after New York adopted them.

This is an interesting idea. The insurance industry has long been a major supporter of anti-drunk driving and seatbelt usage campaigns.

Distraction was a factor in 10 percent of fatal crashes reported in 2013, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data. Some 14 percent of distraction-affected crashes occurred while a cell phone was in use, the NHTSA notes.

A Highway Loss Data Institute study of collision claims patterns in four states (California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington) also found that texting bans may not reduce crash rates. Collisions went up slightly in all the states, except Washington, where the change was statistically insignificant.

The use of technology to better assess risk is something that insurers embrace in many different lines of business, including auto and health. Clearly, privacy concerns will need to be weighed, but this is a novel approach to tackling the distracted driving problem.

Check out Insurance Information Institute statistics on distracted driving here.

More On Employment and Claim Frequency

Earlier this month Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) chief actuary Jim Lynch linked teen employment to the spike in claim frequency. I.I.I. chief economist Steven Weisbart responds:

I think Jim’s post draws the wrong inference from the data. Specifically, the slide pairs the drop in the teenage unemployment rate with the rise in overall collision claim frequency. He infers that if teens are not unemployed, they’re employed and, presumably, driving to work.

But the drop in the unemployment rate of this age group isn’t solely—or even mainly—because they’ve taken jobs. To start with, in 2006-07, there were seven million people ages 16 to 19 in the labor force. That began falling in 2008, crossing six million in 2010 and plateauing at about 5.6 million midway through 2011. So in the space of less than five years, about 1.5 million people ages 16-19 disappeared from the labor force.

In contrast, the number unemployed in this age range dropped from about 1.1 million in 2006-07 to about 0.9 million in 2015. So about 200,000 got jobs. Some who had been in the labor force in 2006-07 must have gone to school, joined the military, were imprisoned, or simply gave up looking for a job (and therefore were not considered to be in the labor force).

If, instead, you look at the number in this age group who were employed in this period, it was 6 million in 2006-07, dropped to 4.3 million in mid-2010, rose to 4.5 million by mid-2014, and was 4.75 million in 2015:Q4. So the number of people in this age group who were employed is still 1.25 million below what it was before the Great Recession and subsequently.

I’ve put together a different slide (below), showing the change in employment and the change in claim frequency. As the number of employed falls with the Great Recession, so does claim frequency. And as employment numbers climb, so does claim frequency.

Employment and Collisions

So I’d say that Jim has a good explanation for the spike in the number of claims; more people get jobs, start driving to and from work and unfortunately get into accidents more often.

But it wasn’t just teen workers. It was everybody.

Smart Home, Smart Insurance

“Alexa, what is insurance?”

This is just one of many questions that can be asked of an Amazon Echo, our smart home companion that arrived over the holidays.

And as I’m finding out, the part-Siri part-bluetooth speaker that can stream music, tell me the weather or what the traffic’s like, can also be integrated with our  smart home devices and hubs.

Turning on the lights, locking the doors and changing the temperature at home are all possible once Alexa is introduced to compatible products and hubs.

As Internet of Things (IoT) devices proliferate and debut at CES 2016, the world’s largest  technology trade show happening in Las Vegas this week, insurers will be taking note.

A new International Data Corporation (IDC) report estimates worldwide spending on the IoT will grow from $699 billion in 2015 to nearly $1.3 trillion in 2019–at a 17 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

While manufacturing and transportation (at $165.6 billion and $78.7 billion respectively) led the world in IoT spending in 2015, IDC says the insurance, health care and consumer industries are expected to see the fastest growth over the next five years:

Over the next five years, the industries forecast to have the fastest IoT spending growth will be insurance (31.8 percent CAGR), healthcare, and consumer.”

While insurers have already explored the benefits of connectivity in the auto insurance sector, the connected home represents a major opportunity for property/casualty insurers, according to a report by Accenture.

Insurers can leverage data from connected home devices to assess and mitigate risk, increase pricing sophistication, and offer new products, all of which help drive operational efficiency and top-line growth.”

Key areas of opportunity for insurers identified by Accenture include:

–Better risk management and risk mitigation, through claims avoidance and better claims handling;

–Better underwriting, based on increased data flows and a keener understanding of risk factors and behavioral elements;

–New product offerings, including value-added services delivered in a partnership

Security, energy management, lighting, water, thermostats, weather, appliances, and smoke and fire are the major  areas within the connected home where insurers have the potential for improving underwritten precision and limiting losses while strengthening customer relationships, Accenture says.

However, insurers will also need to tackle challenges presented by large inflows of new data such as customer indifference or lack of understanding of new offerings, as well as privacy and regulatory concerns, to convert that  opportunity into profitable growth, Accenture notes.

Q and A: How Does Driver Assistance Tech Impact Premiums?

Our mission at the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) is to help people understand how insurance operates. Sometimes that means understanding how insurers handle new technologies, particularly auto insurance. Chief Actuary James Lynch answers a question we got last week:

Q: I am researching driver assist technology and the advantages and pitfalls that could be associated with it. Do driver assist  technologies raise or lower insurance premiums? A few of the technologies I’m looking at are lane-keeping devices, blind spot warning systems and hands-free cruise control.

A: As far as technological innovations go, insurance companies adjust their rates after a technology has proved its worth on the road. Only then do they know that a technology is effective and how much discount is warranted, if any. That means hands-free driving systems, which have only been introduced in the past couple months, are not earning anyone discounts right now.

You mention lane departure warnings. That is a technology that has yet to prove valuable on its own. The feature alerts a driver that is beginning to drift from one lane to another. When the driver drifts, an alarm beeps. One problem, it appears, is that drivers have trouble understanding what the beep means.

In addition, the feature can be turned on and off by the owner, and owners frequently find it so annoying that they turn it off. I happen to have a car with this technology, and I drove with it for about 10 minutes before turning it off. You would be surprised how many times your wheels touch a lane line; I know I was, particularly when the road curved. So insurers probably aren’t giving a lot of credits for the system.

That doesn’t mean that the idea of a lane departure warning is useless. The problem may be that the notification system doesn’t help the driver do a better job. There’s every chance that manufacturers will be able to refine the system so that it does better later. If that happens, rates will eventually adjust.

Another possibility: Sometimes a feature by itself doesn’t work as touted but will become an important part of a larger system. An example here is antilock brakes, which were introduced a couple of decades ago. The brakes had a special feature that was supposed to help a car stop more quickly when its brakes were slammed on. By itself, they weren’t much of a help — which surprised a lot of people – but they have become an important part of electronic stability control, a computerized system that figures out when a car is starting to skid and corrects the situation.

Electronic stability control is perhaps the biggest safety advance of our generation. The feature, standard since 2012 on all new vehicles, has cut the risk of a fatal single-vehicle crash in half. Insurers closely monitor this stuff, particularly the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and its sister organization, the Highway Loss Data Institute.

Here at I.I.I. we offer more information on auto crashes in our Issues Update on the topic.