If the power goes out, can you get reimbursed for spoiled food?

Following a major disaster like Hurricane Laura extended power outages are common. Nearly 800,000 customers in Louisiana and Texas were without power after the storm hit. However, most electric utility companies do not offer their customers reimbursement for food spoilage caused by long-term power outages.

In the areas of Louisiana and Texas affected by Hurricane Laura, none of the power companies serving those areas provide such reimbursements, according to Bill Davis of Triple-I .

Insurance companies will usually cover up to $500 of food that spoils from a power outage caused by a covered peril under standard homeowners insurance policies. Homeowners insurance deductibles will apply to food spoilage coverage, however, so a $500 deductible, which most policyholders carry, would mean that the policy would only pay if the policyholder suffered more than $500 in food spoilage losses. Some insurers offer food spoilage coverage with a separate deductible for an additional premium.

Ordered to evacuate due to Hurricane Laura? You might have insurance coverage for additional living expenses

Loretta Worters, Vice President Media Relations, Triple-I

People who evacuated their residence due to Hurricane Laura may have coverage for additional living expenses under either their homeowners or renters insurance policies.

Additional living expenses (ALE), also known as Loss of Use, pays the additional costs of living away from home if you cannot live there due to mandatory evacuation or as a result of damage to your home from an insured catastrophe, such as a hurricane. It covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other costs, over and above your usual living expenses.  It can also include storage fees, mileage if you have to drive farther to work, pet boarding and laundry.  Even utilities that are more expensive in your temporary home may be included.  Also remember you are entitled to stay in a place that’s comparable in size and quality to your house.

Keep in mind that the ALE coverage in your homeowners policy has limits—either a percentage of your dwelling coverage – typically 20 percent,  or a time limit, usually 12 months. If you rent out part of your house, ALE also covers you for the rent that you would have collected from your tenant if your home had not been destroyed. This is sometimes insured on an actual-loss-sustained basis (what the homeowner would have earned had the loss not occurred).

Consumers who have chosen to go to a hotel because their power is out, won’t be eligible for ALE reimbursement.  ALE is only triggered through a mandatory evacuation or if the property is considered uninhabitable.  If you left because of a mandatory evacuation order but stayed away because the power was out, you may only be eligible to claim expenses for the time until the evacuation order was lifted. 

Standard home insurance also doesn’t cover ALE as a result of flood damage. The National Flood Insurance Program doesn’t include additional living expenses either, although there are some privately sold flood policies that do. Consult your insurance policy or contact your insurance professional for details.

Hurricane Laura Update: 8/27/2020

Damage reports from Hurricane Laura are coming in. Lake Charles, La., was especially hard hit, and there are reports of a chemical leak nearby.

Laura made landfall near Cameron, La., as an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in an early-morning bulletin that Laura had weakened to a Category 3 hurricane, with rapid weakening forecast, and the storm has since been downgraded to a Category 1 as it heads northward.

“Lake Charles experienced severe wind damage but seems not to have seen the amount of storm surge that was feared,” said Triple-I non-resident scholar and Colorado State University atmospheric scientist Dr. Philip Klotzbach.  

Despite the downgrade, the hurricane still had sustained winds of more than 100 mph. Heavy rain is predicted to be widespread across the west-central Gulf Coast, with five to 10 inches falling over a broad area, and locally up to 18 inches, leading to flash flooding.

The storm is now tracking inland across western Louisiana with damaging winds and is an inland flood risk as far north and east as Arkansas and the Ohio and Tennessee valleys. 

“The threat of tornadoes today and even tomorrow also exists as the storm recurves into the Tennessee Valley,” Klotzbach said. 

Hurricane Laura set to develop into Cat 4 storm

The National Hurricane Center forecasts Hurricane Laura to reach Category 4 intensity later today.  A ‘life-threatening’ storm surge of 10 to 15 feet is predicted, one of the worst in years, along with destructive winds. The storm is poised to strike the upper Texas coast and western Louisiana.  Hurricane and storm surge warnings have been issued for much of this zone.

If you live in an area ordered to evacuate, leave now. Do not attempt to ride out the storm.  Take your insurance contact information and home inventory with you.

In an analysis based on the assumption that Hurricane Laura would come ashore on the Louisiana coast as a Category 3 storm, CoreLogic, a catastrophe modeling firm, warns that nearly 432,000 single-family and multi-family homes along the coasts of Texas and Louisiana could be damaged from storm surge. According to the analysis, Laura threatens approximately 431,810 homes with a combined reconstruction value of approximately $88.63 billion.

Said Tom Larsen, principal, insurance solutions at CoreLogic, “The coincidence of two catastrophes—a damaging hurricane season and the ongoing global pandemic—underscores the importance of the correct valuation of reconstruction cost, one of the core tenets of property insurance.”

Hurricane Watch: 8/25/2020

Tropical Storm Laura has been upgraded to a hurricane and is tracking northwest across the Gulf of Mexico.  The system is likely to make landfall Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, possibly in eastern Texas or western Louisiana. High winds, heavy rain and storm surge are expected.

If you live along the northern Gulf Coast you are encouraged to prepare now, as conditions will deteriorate during the day on Wednesday.

Please click here for preparedness tips.

Atypical Wildfire Activity? Of Course — It’s 2020

If you need any further evidence of the anomalous nature of the year 2020, you can take a look at California’s wildfires. Two of the three largest fires in California history rage across the state, alongside about 600 others, burning more than 1.3 million acres — an area about the size of Delaware — and forcing more than 100,000 people to evacuate.

Those of us who aren’t directly affected may have become jaded enough to think, “More fires in the West. That’s normal.”

But as Janet Ruiz, Triple-I’s California-based director of strategic communications, explains, “We’ve had a significant number of large wildfires since 2015, but this year is anything but normal.”

Your first clue might be the alphabet soup of names applied to this year’s blazes: LNU, CZU, SCU. You might remember Northern California’s major wildfires in recent years — the Camp Fire, the Carr Fire, Tubbs, Ferguson — and wonder why this year’s don’t have similarly straightforward names.

According to California fire officials, it’s because the number of fires has required them to be grouped together in “complexes”:

  • The LNU Lightning Complex in the northeast Bay Area, including Sonoma, Napa, Solano, and Lake counties.
  • The CZU Lightning Complex in the western and southern Bay Area, including San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties.
  • The SCU Lightning Complex in the eastern and southeastern Bay Area, including Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, and neighboring San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.

“We only group fires like that when we have a lightning siege as such,” Brice Bennet, a public information officer for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The last major lightning siege was in 2008.

“Once the fires are grouped into a complex,” the Chronicle explains, “they’re managed so fire managers can assess all the different fires within each one and share resources across the greatest need — life being first, and property second. That’s where the prefixes come in. Those monikers are geographical locators based on Cal Fire administrative unit codes.”

Ruiz explained that many of the fires since 2015 were caused by human activity, rather than nature.

“Authorities have worked hard and invested a lot of money to mitigate those causes,” she said. “Then along comes this unpredictable, unpreventable abundance of lightning strikes.”

Fewer firefighters: Thanks, COVID-19

The daunting number of blazes coincides with a reduced availability of firefighters, courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic.

“In past seasons, a lot of help came from inmates recruited to assist in firefighting,” Ruiz said. “Many of these have been released because of COVID-19 and therefore aren’t available.”

Less warning, preparation paramount

Lightning is a universal metaphor for random ill fortune, and the chaotic causation of California’s 2020 fires has affected how authorities communicate with residents about impending threats.

“Normally you’d get warnings about approaching fires, followed, if necessary, by a mandatory evacuation order,” Ruiz said. But last week, when Ruiz was evacuated, “We didn’t get an advisory – we were just told to go.”

Wisely, she and her husband keep “to go” bags near their front door and were able to leave within 10 minutes of receiving the order.

A year characterized by a global pandemic, historic civil unrest, an “extremely active” hurricane season, a destructive derecho – not to mention the more bizarre entomological offerings of murder hornets, zombie cicadas, and invasive “jumping” earthworms – is no time to forgo caution where wildfire safety is concerned.

Ruiz reminds us that this fire season is still young, and more and worse may be in store.

Further Reading:

Safeguard Your Business From Wildfires: Allianz and Triple-I Team Up on Mitigation

Wildfires and Insurance: Learn How to Prepare Financially

Facts and Stats: Wildfire

Are You Financially Prepared for a Wildfire?

Knowing Insurance Is Part of Wildfire Preparedness

Fighting Wildfires With Innovation

Laura and Marco
Set Sights on
Northern Gulf Coast

Tropical storms Laura and Marco are expected to hit the northern Gulf Coast within a few days of each other. Marco was a hurricane on Sunday but has weakened considerably due to strong southwesterly wind shear. 

While Marco’s wind threat has diminished, heavy rain of three to six inches, with small areas potentially receiving 10 inches of rainfall are possible along the north-central and northeast Gulf Coast, according to the National Hurricane Center.  Storm surge of two to four feet also is possible from Morgan City, LA, to Ocean Springs, MS.  Marco is expected to make landfall later today in southeast Louisiana.

Following close behind is Tropical Storm Laura, which forecasters say may intensify to a Category 2 hurricane by the time it makes landfall along the northwestern Gulf Coast.

Residents along the Louisiana coast were urged to prepare for hurricane conditions, and Gov. John Bel Edwards called on them to begin sheltering Sunday evening.

“If you’re in duress and need help, we’re going to get to you as soon as possible,” Edwards said at the state’s Emergency Operations Center, where officials were tracking and preparing for the storms. “But as soon as possible may be longer than it normally is.”

The National Weather Service warned Sunday that the stronger Laura could bring more significant impacts across southern Louisiana because of its potential for higher winds and storm surge and because preparing for Laura will likely be complicated by lingering impacts from Marco.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday declared a state of disaster for 23 counties and requested assistance from the federal government. If Laura were to make landfall in Texas, it could mark the second significant disaster during the 2020 hurricane season for Texas, following Hurricane Hanna dumping more than 15 inches of rain on South Texas in late July as the region was a deadly coronavirus hotspot. The COVID-19 pandemic remains pervasive in Texas, killing at least 200 people every day for the last three weeks, and Abbott reminded the public on Sunday to adhere to mask wearing, social distancing, and other health guidelines.

South Texas cities were the first to deal with a hurricane during the coronavirus pandemic, tweaking shelter practices to have adequate distancing between evacuees and outfitting first responders with protective equipment in order to follow safe coronavirus health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Residents are strongly encouraged to prepare for these and other storms during this “extremely active” hurricane season – particularly with the additional challenge of COVID-19.

Hurricane preparedness guidance is available from Triple-I here.

Insurance considerations

Wind-caused property damage is covered under standard homeownersrenters, and business insurance policies. Renters’ insurance covers a renter’s possessions while the landlord insures the structure.

Property damage to a home, a renter’s possessions, and a business – resulting from a flood – is generally covered under FEMA National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies, if the homeowner, renter, or business has purchased one. Several private insurers also offer flood insurance.

Private-passenger vehicles damaged or destroyed by either wind or flooding are covered under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy. Nearly 80 percent of U.S. drivers choose to purchase comprehensive coverage.

Getting the right insurance for moving

For a variety of reasons, many people have moved during the pandemic. One in five U.S. adults either changed residence due to the pandemic or know someone who did, according to a Pew Research survey. There are many safety factors to consider if you are moving, and it’s also important to understand how insurance protects your possessions before, during, and after a move.

Loretta Worters, Vice President Media Relations, Triple-I, has put together this comprehensive explanation of how insurance covers you when you move.

What’s Covered/What’s Not

Homeowners and renters policies provide coverage for belongings while they are at a residence, in transit, and in storage facilities — but they will not pay for any damage done to personal property while being handled by movers when packing or moving the items. 

Types of Coverage to Consider When Moving:

  1. Trip transit insurance covers personal property for perils including theft, disappearance, or fire (the same perils covered by homeowners or renters policy) while in transit or storage. Trip transit insurance can be written for the full value of the property or as excess coverage over and above that provided by the moving company. It does not, however, cover breakage or flooding at, say, a storage facility.
  2. Special perils contents coverage will cover breakage of all but fragile items.
  3. A floater will fully protect high-value items, such as jewelry, collectibles, fine art, etc. 
  4. Storage insurance is also important should someone need to temporarily or permanently store items before or after a move.

Coverages Available Through Moving Companies

The type of liability coverage a moving company offers for damage or breakage is not technically insurance and therefore is not governed by state insurance laws. Under federal law, however, all interstate movers must offer two different liability options—full-value protection and released-value protection. Most movers offer both options for intrastate moves, as well.  It’s important to understand the various types and levels of protection available and the charges for each option.

  • Full-value protection is a plan under which the mover is liable for the replacement value of the belongings in a shipment. If personal property is lost, destroyed, or damaged while in the mover’s custody, the company will repair or replace the item or make a cash settlement for the cost of the repair or the current market value. The cost for full-value protection liability coverage varies by mover; different deductibles are available, which will reduce or increase the price. Note that full value liability is more expensive and is the default.
  • Released-value protection is offered at no additional charge beyond the moving fee. However, it provides only a minimal protection—no more than 60 cents per pound per article. So if the mover loses or damages a 10-pound stereo component valued at $1,000, the homeowner would only receive $6.00 in compensation (60 cents x 10 pounds).
  • Separate liability coverage may be offered by a mover to augment released-value protection for an additional fee. If this extra coverage is purchased, the mover remains liable for the amount up to 60 cents per pound per article, but the rest of the loss is recoverable from the insurance company up to the limit of the policy purchased. The mover is required to issue and provide a written record of the policy at the time of purchase.

Check Professional Mover’s Agreement

Homeowners should review the mover’s contract and ability to:

  • Determine exactly what kind and how much coverage the moving company provides for property loss and/or damage.
  • Review the contract carefully for the estimated value of your possessions and match it to the homeowner’s list. An up-to-date home inventory will make this task easier. 
  • Find out the maximum value of the mover’s insurance should goods be damaged.
  • Check that the moving company’s policy includes coverage for damage done to the homeowner’s premises—both the house they are leaving and the one being moved into.
  • Know what the time limits are for filing claims with the mover and decide whether they are reasonable—take time to unpack and check for potential damage.

Moving Yourself
If you choose to move yourself, you won’t have the benefits of a moving company’s coverage if belongings are damaged or broken. To be protected:

  • Consult with an insurance professional and review the trip transit, special perils, and floater options.
  • Buy the optional collision damage waiver coverage from the rental company if renting a truck.  Collision and comprehensive coverage likely will not transfer to a non-owned moving van, only to a private passenger vehicle.


New Home, New Insurance

If moving to a new state, or even from a city to a suburban area, a new home insurance policy will be needed.  That’s because a new home is a different property with different risks, which means different coverages may be required. The cost of the policy also may vary. For example, a larger home in a coastal area will likely be more expensive than a small apartment in an inland city. 

When buying a new home, consider insurance costs.  Rates are based on many factors, including square footage, geographical area (is the home in a flood, earthquake or hurricane-prone area of the country?); the age and construction of a home (is it brick or wood shingle?); roof condition; proximity to a fire station; and credit history.  Notify the insurer about a new address and make sure to inquire about possible savings on home and auto premiums for features like a shorter commute, a gated community, or lower-crime area than previously, alarms, or other security systems. 

The same holds true for car insurance. That’s because a new state may have different requirements or factors that result in a different policy cost. Even if moving within the same state, insurance carriers should be notified to ensure policies are up to date.

In-State vs. Out-of-State

An out-of-state move can have big implications, because not all insurance agents or companies are licensed to write policies in every state. Insurance requirements may also vary across state lines Call your agent to see if the current company can write policies in the state they are moving to. If not, consider it an opportunity to shop and compare new policies.

When to Make the Switch

In most cases, the new owner will need to have proof of insurance at closing when buying the new home. An insurance agent should be notified well in advance of closing and providing a timeline for the move so coverage is in place at the appropriate time.  Depending on the insurer, coverage on the former home will generally remain in effect until the sale of the property is complete, as long as premiums are paid, which should be confirmed with the insurance agent.

Vacant Homes

If the homeowner relocates before the existing home is sold and it remains vacant or unoccupied, there may not be coverage under the existing homeowners policy. Insurers typically discontinue coverage on a home if it has been unoccupied for more than 30 days, so prospective homeowners should explore other options with their insurer.

Insurance Careers Corner: A Few Minutes with Anisha Navendra, Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) intern

By James Ballot, Senior Advisor, Strategic Communications, Triple-I

It’s an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all areas of our personal and professional lives. Amid widespread disruption, however, people are stepping up with innovative ways to overcome the distance of “social distancing.”

For insurance businesses, summer internships have long provided a vital path for educating students about the industry, and for insurance businesses to evaluate promising recruits. However, with lockdowns and other measures to contain the spread of Coronavirus extending through and beyond the summer months, many businesses were forced re-evaluate internship programs, with some considering suspension of 2020 summer internships. 

Several organizations have stepped in to fill this gap, including insurance businesses, industry trade groups, and in particular, Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS), a student society with 77 chapters serving more than 5,000 members across North America that’s recognized by many as “the insurance industry’s premier collegiate talent pipeline.”  Earlier this year GIS launched their Virtual Internships program. Despite getting a somewhat late start, the program placed more than 65 students on 30 projects at 14 insurance businesses.

As part of the Triple-I Blog’s “Insurance Careers Corner” features series, we spoke with student interns about their experiences during summer 2020 and their insurance career journey so far. We also reached out to internship program directors to get a fuller sense of how their organizations benefit from expanding outreach to students even in the midst of a pandemic.

First up is Anisha Navendra, who is a rising sophomore at University of Texas, Austin. Anisha spent part of the summer of 2020 interning at the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s (IICF) Southeast Division. She’s double majoring in Mathematics with a concentration in Actuarial Science and Finance—and has “a keen interest in the insurance industry.”

Name: Anisha Navendra

Current Status: Rising Sophomore, The University of Texas at Austin

Internship: IICF

Triple-I: Tell us a bit about your experience as an intern. Did you have an internship lined up before schools and offices went into COVID-19 isolation?

Anisha: I was looking into internships earlier this year, but by the time classes went remote many programs were either suspended or cancelled. Gamma Iota Sigma stepped in to find ways to connect students with insurers and insurance businesses. My internship with IICF is an opportunity to learn more about the unique philanthropic side of the insurance industry by allowing me to spend time working closely with industry professionals.

How long is your internship with IICF and what sort of work are you doing there? 

My internship runs through August. I’m assisting with a wide variety of projects, including pulling and researching financial reports for insights into how a charitable foundation works.  

What skills and knowledge are you picking up along the way?

I’m learning more about teamwork, communications, doing due-diligence, time management and research skills, as well as how to use tools of the trade, like Microsoft Office. Also, I’m meeting and networking (virtually) with a lot of insurance professionals from different backgrounds and getting exposure to a wide range of business areas–marketing, finance, operations.

I plan to use these skills and the knowledge gained about insurance and the insurance industry to help me in my future endeavors as an actuary, or financial consultant.

When did you first consider insurance as a career path?

I became more aware of insurance as a member of my high school debate club (the topic was health insurance). Entering college, I discovered how actuarial sciences aligned with my other interests.

Any “surprises”; things you did not expect to learn or do?

Working with IICF has shown me a unique and more creative side of the business and how the industry’s charitable activities are helping to redefine the narrative about insurance. I’m also learning how companies are reacting to the pandemic—and that insurance is nimble and responsive.  It’s exciting to be behind the scenes at a non-profit.

How will this experience affect you going forward—both in your studies and in preparation for life after college?

Working with IICF has encouraged me to be more innovative and team oriented. The experience has made me want to learn more about non-profits and has gotten me interested in marketing and brand strategies. I plan take more classes in business law and ethics to round out my knowledge.

Lawyers’ Group Approves Best Practices to Guide Litigation Funding

The policymaking arm of the American Bar Association (ABA) recently approved a set of best practices for litigation funding arrangements. 

Litigation funding is an increasingly popular technique in which investors finance lawsuits in which they are not a party against companies – often insurers – in return for a share in the settlement. It contributes to “social inflation” – rising litigation costs that affect insurers’ claim payouts, loss ratios, and, ultimately, how much policyholders pay for coverage. 

The resolution – adopted by the ABA’s House of Delegates by a vote of 366 to 10 – lists the issues lawyers should consider before entering into agreements with outside funders. While it avoids taking a position on the use of such funding, it recommends that lawyers detail all arrangements in writing and advises them to ensure that the client retains control. 

 “The litigation should be managed and controlled by the party and the party’s counsel,” the report says. “Limitations on a third-party funder’s involvement in, or direct or indirect control of or input into (or receipt of notice of), either day-to-day or broader litigation management and on all key issues (such as strategy and settlement) should be addressed in the funding agreement.” 

It also cautions attorneys against giving funders advice about the merits of a case, warning that this could raise concerns about the waiver of attorney-client privilege and expose lawyers to claims that they have an obligation to update this guidance as the litigation develops. 

Opponents of litigation funding have pushed for rules requiring mandatory disclosure of funding arrangements during litigation. The resolution doesn’t take a position on whether disclosures to judges or adversaries should be required, but it urges lawyers to be prepared for the possibility of funding arrangements being scrutinized. 

The launch of a new $200 million fund by Pravati Capital this week brings litigation finance firms over the $1 billion mark for funds raised in 2020, according to Bloomberg Law

Additional Reading:

SOCIAL INFLATION AND COVID-19

IRC STUDY: SOCIAL INFLATION IS REAL, AND IT HURTS CONSUMERS, BUSINESSES

FLORIDA’S AOB CRISIS: A SOCIAL-INFLATION MICROCOSM