Tag Archives: Homeowners

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.

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.

Wildfire Smoke Travels

Two wildfires in California prompted officials to issue air pollution warnings almost 200 miles away in Nevada this week, reminding us that wildfire exposure reaches far beyond the flames.

The Soberanes fire which is located in the Monterey County area is currently 23,688 acres in size and is 10 percent contained. The Sand Fire, which began on July 22, quickly grew to more than 30,000 acres and is now 38,346 acres in size and 40 percent contained.

In the first six months of 2016 there were 26,510 wildfires across the United States, compared to 29,078 wildfires in the first half of 2015, according to statistics from the National Interagency Fire Center, as reported by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Over the 20-year period 1995 to 2014, fires—including wildfires—accounted for 1.5 percent of insured catastrophe losses in the United States, totaling about $6 billion, according to the Property Claims Services (PCS) unit of ISO.

Smoke, soot and ash produced by large wildfires present a risk to property and life in the fire zone, not to mention a potential health risk to residents living in the path of the smoke.

It’s important to recognize that even if a property doesn’t suffer direct damage from flames in a wildfire, it may be exposed to extensive smoke, soot and ash damage.

From the insurance perspective, damage caused by fire and smoke are covered under standard homeowners, renters and business owners policies and under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.

However, it’s important to notify your agent or insurer of this damage on a timely and proper basis.

Water losses or other damage caused by fire fighters while extinguishing a fire is also covered under these policies.

Here’s a visual of the smoke from the California wildfires, courtesy of NOAA and Weather Underground:

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Check out I.I.I. claims filing tips here.

Lightning Strikes, Insurance Responds

Next time you’re home when a heavy thunderstorm rolls in, take a moment to think about how damaging lightning losses can be and how insurance helps.

In fact, insurers paid out $790 million in lightning claims last year to nearly 100,000 policyholders, according to a new analysis by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and State Farm.

Damage caused by lightning, such as fire, is covered by standard homeowners policies and some policies provide coverage for power surges that are the direct result of a lightning strike.

As James Lynch, vice president of information services and chief actuary of the I.I.I. says:

“Not only does lightning result in deadly home fires, it can cause severe damage to appliances, electronics, computers and equipment, phone systems, electrical fixtures and the electrical foundation of a home.”

It’s due partly to the enormous increase in the number and value of consumer electronics that the average cost per claim has continued to rise, Lynch explains.

There were 99,423 insurer-paid lightning claims in 2015, down 0.4 percent from 2014, but the average lightning claim paid was 7.4 percent more than a year ago: $7,497 in 2015 vs. $7,400 a year earlier.

The average cost per claim rose 64 percent from 2010 to 2015. By comparison, the Consumer Price Index (an inflationary indicator that measures the change in the cost of a fixed basket of products and services, including housing, electricity, food, and transportation) rose by 9 percent in the same period.

In recognition of Lightning Safety Awareness Week (June 19-25), the I.I.I. and the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) encourage homeowners to install a lightning protection system in their homes. These systems are designed to protect the structure of your home and provide a specified path to harness and safely ground the super-charged current of the lightning bolt.

The growing market for smart home technology makes installing a lightning protection system even more important, noted the I.I.I. It is also an opportunity for designers, builders and code officials to include lightning protection systems in their plans.

Kimberly Loehr, director of communications for the LPI adds:

“Just as smart homes provide the ultimate in safety and comfort, lightning protection systems ensure that state-of-the-art home automation systems aren’t damaged by direct or nearby lightning strikes.”

Fido Takes A Bite Out of Homeowners Claims

Don’t bite on this, but next week’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week is a reminder that Fido can cost dog owners—and their insurers—dearly.

Dog bite (and dog-related injuries) accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2015, costing in excess of $570 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and insurer State Farm.

In its analysis, the I.I.I. found that while the number of dog bite claims nationwide decreased 7.2 percent in 2015, the average cost per claim for the year was up 16 percent.

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The average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide was $37,214 in 2015, compared with $32,072 in 2014 and $27,862 in 2013.

In fact, the average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 94 percent since 2003.

Why is this?

Loretta Worters, vice president at the I.I.I., says increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are still on the upswing, are responsible for the higher costs per claim.

Dog-related injuries also have an impact on the potential severity of losses. In addition to bites, dogs knock down children, cyclists, the elderly, all of which can result in fractures and other blunt force trauma injuries.

Another factor might be the surge in U.S. Post Office worker attacks, many of which take place at the customer’s door.

The study found the average cost per claim varies substantially across the country.

While Arizona had only the ninth largest number of claims at 393, it registered the highest average cost per claim of the 10 states with the most claims: a staggering $56,654.

State Farm notes that insurance is an important aspect to being a responsible dog owner and offers this important advice:

“When renting a property make sure to have rental insurance because most landlords do not provide coverage should there be a dog bite incident. If you are a homeowner, talk to your insurance agent about what is covered under a standard homeowner policy related to dogs.”

More on this story over at propertycasualty360.com

 

Warming Up Your Valentine’s Day With Insurance

Bitter cold and snow may be in the air for some this Valentine’s weekend, but there’s no better way to stay warm than by checking out these Valentine-themed messages from around the risk and insurance community.

First up, the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) reminds us that while there is nothing more romantic than a marriage proposal on Valentine’s Day, getting adequate insurance for that ring will ensure you are financially protected.

Next, did you know that every year, thousands of Americans lose billions of dollars by falling victim to romance scams? The Financial Services Roundtable (FSR) warns that nearly every demographic is at risk, but the people who are most susceptible are the elderly and women over 40 who are divorced, widowed or disabled.

Among the most common romance scams are malicious actors (scammers) who create fake profiles on dating websites and establish relationships with other site members in order to scam them out of money.

Check out this story of the Emoji prince who thinks he’s found true love online, but soon becomes a victim of a romance scam narrated by FSR’s director of fraud risk, Roxane Schneider.

Finally, if you’re looking to heat up your romance…or your house…by lighting candles this weekend, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has some timely  candle fire safety tips to consider.

From 2009-2013, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 9,300 home structure fires that were started by candles, causing 86 deaths, 827 injuries and $374 million in direct property damage.

On average, 25 home candle fires were reported per day over the five-year period, according to the NFPA.

The I.I.I.’s Valentine’s Pinterest Board has additional tips to ensure your loved ones and their valuables are financially protected.

Alerting You to Earthquakes… and Insurance

Earthquake resilience was  in the spotlight as the Obama administration gave its support for an earthquake-alert system on the West Coast at a White House summit Tuesday.

President Obama also signed an executive order establishing a federal earthquake risk management standard which will improve the capability of federal buildings to function after a quake.

The order requires federal agencies to ensure that federal buildings are constructed or altered using earthquake-resistant design provisions in the most current building codes.

A 2015 scientific assessment from the U.S. Geological Survey shows that more than 143 million Americans could experience potentially damaging earthquakes, nearly double the prior 2006 estimate.

The ShakeAlert early warning system being developed and tested in the West would warn  residents and businesses from at least a few seconds to a few minutes before the shaking starts.

This would be  enough time to slow and stop trains and taxiing planes, and to prevent cars from entering bridges and tunnels, for example.

A common misperception among Americans  is that earthquake coverage is provided in a homeowners or business insurance policy.

However, standard homeowners, renters and business insurance policies do not cover earthquake damage. Coverage is available either in the form of an endorsement or as a separate policy.

Residential earthquake insurance in California is sold through the California Earthquake Authority, a privately funded, publicly managed organization.

Some 85 percent of U.S. homeowners said they do not have coverage for earthquake damage in response to the Insurance Information Institute’s (I.I.I.) annual Pulse Survey.

The I.I.I. Pulse results showed significant variations in the number of consumers that have earthquake insurance across the U.S.

That number was greatest in the earthquake- prone West, where 18 percent of homeowners said they had purchased separate earthquake insurance coverage.

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Information on reducing earthquake damage to homes and businesses is available on the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS)  website.

The  I.I.I. also offers facts and statistics on earthquakes and tsunamis here.

How Many Homes Are Insured? How Many Are Uninsured?

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) gets questions all the time. Here is one answered by chief actuary James Lynch:

Q: On your web page, you report an ORC International poll for the I.I.I.  found that 95 percent of homeowners had homeowners insurance. How many homes does that represent?

A: The short answer is about 70 million. And as is so often the case, I took a long route to it.

The 95 percent is the percentage of people who said they own a home and then answered “yes” to the question of whether they have homeowners insurance. We regularly survey about 1,000 people on this topic, and around 94 percent to 96 percent generally answer yes.

In the poll, we do not define what a home is, so it could be single-family home, a condo, a co-op, a duplex or anything else. In addition, there are several different types of homeowner policies, but the survey doesn’t ask which type they have. The I.I.I. designed the survey, and we doubt the typical consumer knows off the top of his head whether they bought, say, a dwelling fire policy or an HO-3, so we don’t ask. The answers would not be meaningful.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) collects information on all types of homeowners policies. To muddle things a bit, one of those “homeowners” policies is really renters insurance.   In 2012, the most recent year available, there were 68.6 million policies for the various types of homeowners policies or their barebones brethren, dwelling fire (not counting the renters insurance I just mentioned).

As a reasonableness check (and because I felt like it), I created a separate estimate by using U.S. Census data from the American Community Survey (factfinder.census.gov). The table is C-01-AH, if you want to look it up yourself.

According to that source, there were 75.65 million owner-occupied year-round housing units in 2013, both single- and multi-family. (There are another 4.07 million seasonally occupied homes.).

Multiplying the 75.65 by the 95 percent with insurance leaves us with an estimate of about 72 million homeowners policies covering primary residences.

Comparing the estimates: they measure two different years, 2012 and 2013 but that discrepancy isn’t critical. The number of households doesn’t vary too much from year to year. More significant: the latter estimate is indirect; it smashes together numbers from two sources (Census Bureau and I.I.I. poll). So it is probably less accurate than using the NAIC data, even though the NAIC data is older. However I find it reassuring they came to approximately the same number. That’s why 70 million seems a reasonable estimate.

Q: Thank you for your quick response. I appreciate the background/explanation. I was actually trying to determine the number of homes that are uninsured (the 5 percent). Based on your calculations below, 5 percent of the 75.65 would be 3.78 million, correct?

A: Your math is correct if you want to estimate primary residences, including condos, etc. Secondary residences would add another 200,000 approximately, being 5 percent of 4.07 million (give or take). Because it is an estimate and a rough one on a (relatively) small number, I’d round it in general terms, such as saying “between 3 ½ and 4 million homes are uninsured.”

Lots of homeowners facts and statistics at the I.I.I. website.

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.

A Happy—and Safe—Halloween

As we put the finishing touches to our Halloween costumes we’ve rounded up some of the not-so-spooky posts from around the insurance blogosphere to keep the ghouls and ghosts away.

First up is Erie Insurance with its post 4 Lesser-Known Halloween Safety Tips. Read all the way to the end and you’ll learn of the dangers of glow sticks. As a parent to two young children who gravitate towards anything that glows, I appreciate the tip that glow sticks cause an increase in poisoning on Halloween. Make sure to tell your kids to keep them away from their mouths.

Next up is Zillow and HomeInsurance.com with an excellent post on how Halloween carries potential financial risk for homeowners. Whether it’s Halloween-related fires leading to property damage or liability claims from trick-or-treaters injured on your property, some practical safety steps and a homeowners or renters insurance policy can help protect your most valuable assets.

Do you have a secure place to park your car? In this Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) post (from 2013)  we learn  that vehicle vandalism peaks on Halloween with nearly twice as many insurance claims on October 31 as on an average day. Such claims include things like slashed tires and smashed windows. Hence the importance of comprehensive auto insurance coverage.

And for the insurance fans  among you, last but not least is a post on WillisWire, reflecting not on make-believe monsters, but on the scariest real risks faced by their clients during the year. Which one keeps you up at night? Have your say and take their poll.

Wishing all our readers a safe and Happy Halloween!

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