A hearing down on Capitol Hill today titled Ã¢â‚¬Å“Liability Reform and Small BusinessÃ¢â‚¬ highlights the growing litigation risk faced by small businesses and the need for good liability risk management and adequate insurance. The hearing before the House Small Business Committee includes testimony from the president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). The ILR has just released two studies showing the impact lawsuits can have on small businesses. According to the studies, the tort system in the U.S. cost small businesses $98 billion in 2005. The threat of lawsuits also alters the way small business owners make decisions, with 62 percent saying they make business decisions to avoid lawsuits. These decisions can have significant effects on the business, such as making products and services more expensive, or making a product or service unavailable to customers. For more information on insurance and risk management for businesses, check out I.I.I.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s new insuring your business website.Ã‚
While weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve purposely stayed away from the topic of gun liability or risk management lessons to be learned from last monthÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s shootings at Virginia Tech, an article in the Chicago Sun-Times detailing how a father obtained a gun license for his 10-month-old son forces us to visit this contentious issue. According to the May 13 article, the infantÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s father applied on his behalf for the license after his grandfather bought him a shotgun as an heirloom. The application for the license was approved on the third go, after being turned down twice due to technicalities. While the father fully expected the application for the license to be rejected due to his sonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s age, it appears that in the state of Illinois there are no age restrictions on issuing a firearms ownerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s identification card (FOID). At risk of stating the obvious, we note that 16 remains the age at which a teen, subject to successful completion of driver education, can apply for a driverÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s license in Illinois.Ã‚ AsÃ‚ many states have legislation in place that restricts or prevents lawsuits against the gun industry, the question is should we be concerned? Following the Virginia Tech tragedy and given the lawsuits targeting Ã¢â‚¬Å“Big TobaccoÃ¢â‚¬ , and more recent suits against the alcohol industry and fast food industry, could we be looking at a potential rise in claims under liability coverages? What are your thoughts? Check out further I.I.I. info on the liability system.
So for the second year running Miami drivers have been found to be the least courteous in the country, followed by New York and Boston drivers, according to a survey by national auto club AutoVantage. The other two cities with the worst road rage were Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Talking on cell phones, running red lights and slamming on the brakes were some of the frequent behaviors noted by commuters of their fellow drivers. The most frequent cause of road rage cited in the survey was impatient and/or speeding motorists. Drivers also cited poor driving in fast lanes, talking on the cell phone and driving while stressed, frustrated or angry. The most courteous city is Portland, OR, followed closely by Pittsburgh, Seattle/Tacoma, St. Louis and Dallas/Ft. Worth. The obvious link withÃ‚ our businessÃ‚ is that drivers’ safety habits are just one of the factors that can affect the cost of auto insurance. The cost and crashworthiness of vehicles is another.Ã‚ This survey also highlights the emerging risk posed by cell phone use whileÃ‚ driving. Check out further data from the I.I.I. on driver behavior and auto crashesÃ‚ and cell phones and driving.
Late last week NCCI Holdings released its annual “State of the Line” workers compensation market analysis showing that the 2006 calendar year combined ratio was 96.5 percent, the best underwriting result in at least 30 years and the first underwriting profit for the line since 1995. Although the underwriting results are the best in decades, NCCI did flag some critical issues that continue to face the sector in the long-term. Among them, skyrocketing medical costs, low investment returns, a changing political landscape and the projection that the underwriting cycle is likely at its peak. On a day in which illnesses suffered by Ground Zero workers have again made the headlines, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d like to flag another emerging issue — the latent illnesses and disease among first responders to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. New York City officials estimate the treatment costs for those suffering respiratory illnesses is already in the hundreds of millions of dollars and that other illnesses such as cancer may eventually be linked to the disaster. For more information on workers compensation check out I.I.I.’s update.
A little known fact is that the insurance industry ranks among the top 15 contributors when it comes to charitable donations. Indeed, the charitable contributions to U.S. and international causes by 211 of the largest U.S. companies and U.S. corporate foundations amounted to $9.78 billion in 2005, according to a survey by the Conference Board. The survey included 209 firms which gave over $7.78 billion to U.S. causes in 2005. The insurance industryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s donations to U.S. beneficiaries totaled $181.3 million, placing it eleventh out of 19 industry groups. This brings us to the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation. The FoundationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s New York division will hold its next Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, May 17 at 10:00am at AIG, 70 Pine Street. The IICF-New York division has also been busy planning its first annual dinner to be held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on December 5, 2007. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has agreed to be honoree and the dinner will be chaired by Martin Sullivan, chairman and CEO of AIG. Visit the IICF site for more information.Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚
As British Prime Minister Tony Blair announces his resignation and with U.S. President George BushÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tenure soon coming to a close, today we turn to two reports that speak to the growing risks from political violence and terrorism. First, a RAND study finds that technology and knowledge-sharing among diverse terrorist groups is on the up and part of the complex threat posed by terrorism. Given concern about terrorist interest in unconventional weapons, individuals with skills involving chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological (CBNR) technology are frequently a central focus of analysts. But, the RAND study shows the importance of individuals with expertise in conventional explosive technologies as well. Threat assessments should monitor both these areas, it says. Then a report in from LloydÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s and the Economist Intelligence Unit finds that despite growing awareness of terrorism and political risks, nearly one in four businesses do not have a business continuity plan in place. A further 14 percent of companies believe that their plan is insufficient in the light of political violence. These figures are even greater for smaller firms. Check out I.I.I.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s information on terrorism risk and risk management for small businesses online.Ã‚
Catastrophe models have come under a lot of scrutiny since the record hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005. In recent weeks the use of five-year catastrophe models versus 100-year models in the underwriting process has attracted the attention of certain state regulators. Whatever your opinion, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s important to recognize that catastrophe models are just one of the tools that help insurers, reinsurers and risk managers more accurately analyze, write and price for catastrophe risk. Over the years catastrophe models have been constantly updated and fine-tuned to incorporate the latest technologies, data, and research findings. Take yesterdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s announcement of a collaboration between AIR Worldwide Corp, the International Hurricane Research Center (IHRC) and the College of Engineering and Computing at Florida International University (FIU). This initiative will see a computer controlled, mechanical platform, known as the Ã¢â‚¬Å“AIR TurntableÃ¢â‚¬ be incorporated into a hurricane simulator that can test the effects of different wind loadings on different building types. The technology is expected to transform residential and commercial construction and retrofitting practices and lead to more effective methods of strengthening buildings against extreme wind events such as hurricanes. Mitigation technology research like thisÃ‚ will beÃ‚ key to better managing catastrophe risk in the years ahead.
WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve blogged before about tornado risk (see February 5 posting) and this weekendÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s twisters in Kansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Iowa underline the oft forgotten point that tornadoes, though not generally as destructive as hurricanes, are more frequent and can also cause severe damage. The F5 tornado (the highest category on the scale) that struck Greensburg, Kansas, late Friday night is estimated to have destroyed as much as 95 percent of the town. It was part of a swathe of storms that killed at least 10 people over the weekend. According to A.M. Best, tornadoes and related weather events caused more than $8 billion in insured losses in 2006. Each year about 1,000 tornadoes with wind speeds as high as 300 mph touch down in the U.S., according to I.I.I. research. Check out further I.I.I. tornado statistics.Ã‚ I.I.I. has activated a disaster response plan following the tornadoes. For more information, please email Mike Barry, I.I.I. Media Relations Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CaliforniaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Wildfire Awareness Week gets underway Monday with a series of events planned across the state to educate residents on wildfire safety and preparedness. 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. Earlier this week the National Interagency Fire Center warned that the West and Southeast face an increased wildfire risk this year, due to ongoing drought conditions and a predicted warmer than average summer. In Florida, where over 90 percent of the state is experiencing drought, some 95 wildfires are reported to be active. Meanwhile, in Georgia, a state of emergency has been declared in 21 southeast counties that are facing extreme drought conditions. I.I.I.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s free home inventory software can help residents better protect their property ahead of disaster. Further information is also available from the Insurance Information Network of CaliforniaÃ‚ (IINC).
Tomorrow the UNÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release its latest report on climate change. This, the third and final IPCC volume for the year, will focus on mitigation of climate change. Among other things, it is expected to highlight how various economic steps and technologies could help limit the effects of global warming. Measures to reduce greenhouse gases and the costs associated with such action will also be weighed. Whatever its conclusions and recommendations, the report again indicates that climate change represents a key risk for countries, governments, businesses and individuals moving forward. Bear in mind a recent survey from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), and sponsored by ACE, IBM and KPMG, revealed that international risk managers were least confident about how their organizations were managing climate change risk. Interestingly, survey respondents also felt that terrorism risks and human capital risks are not being handled so well.