Entries in Insurance (11)


Only a Third of Renters Have Insurance, Survey Shows

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Most responsible people wouldn't think of driving a car without car insurance, but many of those same people rent a home without renter's insurance.

A new survey commissioned by found that only 34 percent of American renters have renter's insurance.

The average renter's policy costs just $185 a year, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.  So why don't more people get renter's insurance?

The survey found that 60 percent believed renter's insurance must cost $250 a year or more and 21 percent guessed it would cost a painful $1,000 or more.

"Renter's insurance is a lot more affordable than most people think," said Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst for  "Most renters don't realize that their landlord's insurance usually only covers the structure and not the renter's belongings."

For $15 a month or so, renters can be protected from theft, fire, water damage and more.  Many renters' policies even include replacement housing if you have to live somewhere else while your place is fixed.

As with homeowner's insurance policies, flood and earthquake coverage are not included.  And you'll have to pay extra to insure valuables like pricy jewelry and expensive electronics.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Top Six Things to Know About Flooding After Hurricane Sandy

@eewolff609(NEW YORK) -- The extent of the devastation to homes and businesses caused by Sandy is still emerging, but it is already being estimated in the tens of billions of dollars.

The overwhelming cause of the damage was flooding which inundated whole towns, broke gas mains, swamped power stations and crippled the region.  The salt water ruined cars, businesses and homes.

Now, the clean-up begins along with the claims to insurance companies.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has an online tool that helps shows a rough estimate of how much flooding, by height of water, could cost a household.  A home that spans 1,000 square feet with six inches of flooding could have total losses of $20,150.  Those costs, which vary by state and by type of home, include $1,000 in cleaning; $150 for electrical and plumbing; $7,900 in wood and carpet repair; thousands of dollars more in appliance and furniture replacement; and $1,100 in repairing doors, base trim and windows.

ABC News asked Judith Spry, partner in the insurance claims services practice at BDO Consulting, about what those who have experienced flooding should do to recover.

Double-Check Insurance Policies
Spry cautions that homeowners and business owners should never fully rely on an insurance policy.  It is especially important to review your homeowner's policy with your agent or broker so you understand the amount you will receive in the event of a covered loss, and whether it will be adequate to rebuild your home.  Homeowners should also know the amount of a deductible and any special provisions in the policy such as wind exclusions.

Start the Insurance Claims Process as Soon as Possible
The NFIP recommends you first call your agent or insurance company to file a claim and an adjustor should contact you within a few days.  You should know the name of your insurance company, your policy number and contact information where you can be reached.  Business loss insurance coverage usually begins after a waiting period of about 72 hours and claims can take weeks for companies to estimate.

Assess Your Property
The NFIP recommends you separate undamaged from damaged property and make a list of damaged or lost items, including date of purchase, value and receipts if possible.

Take Video or Photos for a Home Inventory
For insurance purposes and for your own personal keepsake in case of a disaster, you should have a home inventory or a photographic record.  Take photographs of damaged property, including discarded objects, structural damage and standing floodwater levels.  If you don't have a record of a purchase, some insurers may accept a photograph or video of a damaged object.  If you don't have a receipt of something, such as a new television, you may be able to go to the store where you bought it and ask if they have a record of the purchase.

If You Have Flood Insurance, You'll Get a "Proof of Loss" Form
Your adjuster will provide you a Proof of Loss form for your official claim for damages, which you must file with your insurance company within 60 days of the flood.  You should receive your claim payment after you and the insurer agree on the amount of damages and the insurer has your complete, accurate, and signed Proof of Loss form.  If major catastrophic flooding occurs, it may take longer to process claims, according to the NFIP.

You Don't Need a Public Adjuster on a Big Claim
Spry says you do not need a public adjuster.  Public adjusters, who work for you and not the insurance company, will take a percentage of a claim even if the insured is investing a significant amount of time, such as preparing forms, for the process.  She recommends having an accounting firm to provide claims preparation coverage.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Billion Dollar Losses Likely from Hurricane Sandy

Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Aaron Donovan(NEW YORK) -- The multi-billion dollar insurance losses from Hurricane Sandy could be larger than anyone expected before the massive storm blew ashore, and it may take weeks to assess the damage from widespread flooding and destruction in the east.

Preliminary estimates are that Sandy will be a lot more expensive than last year’s Hurricane Irene, which according to one finding cost nearly $16 billion with more than ten states directly affected. The National Flood Insurance Program will step in to pay for some of the damage. 

Stock trading is closed for a second straight day. Bond trading will also be closed. It is the first time since 1888 that the exchange will have been closed for two consecutive days because of weather.

Transportation is at a standstill in the Northeast. Airlines grounded thousands more flights on Tuesday, stranding travelers as far away as Europe and Asia. Amtrak says it’s canceled all service on Tuesday in the Northeast because of high winds and heavy rains. Cargo container operations were suspended in the normally busy ports of New York and northern New Jersey.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Texas Grandma Claims She Was Fired for Having Breast Cancer

ABC (HOUSTON) -- A Texas grandmother of five says she was wrongfully fired from her job because she got cancer. Now, she's suing for employment discrimination.

Janet Hustus, 53, was working as the Conference Meetings Director for Crowne Plaza Houston in January 2011 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I was devastated. When you hear those words it is very devastating," Hustus said. "You have cancer, and you don't know what to do. You have so many emotions."

She went to her general manager, Jerry Mathers, a few days later to discuss her schedule and surgery dates. Hustus says Mathers assured her the company would work around her schedule and "support her any way possible," including keeping her job open for her.

"His wife had gone through the same thing a few years prior," Hustus said. "He was very supportive and told me he'd have his wife call me and talk to me on what to expect."

Hustus had surgery a few months later and returned to work after eight weeks of recovery. Four days into working, she was fired.

"Jerry called me into his office that Saturday morning and couldn't look me in the eyes. That's when I knew something was wrong," Hustus said. "They had to trim back departments and my department was cut. I was let go."

But the Texan believes Crowne Plaza Hotel fired her because of insurance, knowing she had more follow-up surgeries required.

"I've seen very similar cases," her attorney, Ellen Sprovach, said. "The minute an employee tells the employer 'I'm going to have to have surgery' they're interestingly laid off."

Michael Stanley, who's representing Crowne Plaza, said Tuesday he hasn't answered the lawsuit because they haven't been served with the lawsuit, and have only seen a copy of it. Stanley sent ABC News affiliate KTRK in Houston the following statement on Monday:

"My client just received the lawsuit today and will take a serious look at all of the allegations. I understand that Ms. Hustus worked in a sales-related position and was fired for reasons unrelated to any illness or disability."

"Crowne Plaza has never said that prior to last night," Sprovach said.

Hustus, who is now cancer-free and has a new job, hopes to collect financial damages for medical bills and mental anguish.

"I just want people to be aware. Don't always trust the people you think you can trust," Hustus said. "I don't have any bad feelings against Jerry or the hotel. That's not right, and they have to live with it."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Most Drivers Seem Content with Their Auto Insurance Plans

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A certain insurance company with a gecko as a spokesman boasts that just 15 minutes can save you 15 percent or more on your car insurance...but that's provided you want to make the switch.

As it turns out, according to market research company J.D. Power and Associates, most people seem content with the insurance company they've already got.

Overall, just 25 percent of car owners looked around for a new insurer in 2011, down from one in three the year before.

Of those who shopped around, 43 percent actually made the switch to a new company, up slightly from 2010. Approximately a third who looked for a new insurer said they got quotes online with the same percentage saying they preferred to buy insurance on the Internet.

The survey did not ask why motorists looked for a different insurance company although paying less for policies must have factored in some of their decisions.

Ironically, Allstate and Progressive, the second-and-fourth-largest U.S. auto insurers by premiums written, were ranked in the bottom five of customer satisfaction among the 24 insurers ranked.

Just as oddly, Hartford Finanical, number one in customer satisfaction, was not in the top ten of premiums written.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Insurers Find Hurricane 'Insurance' on Wall Street

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Insurers and utilities who face major losses related to Hurricane Irene may find some help -- not from the federal government, but Wall Street. Insurance and utility companies, which stand to lose billions of dollars because of the damage from Hurricane Irene, can bet how much damage will be incurred during each hurricane season through a unique financial product known as a weather derivative. And if traders' bids are accurate, they could receive a payout.

Commodity traders began investing weather derivatives in 1999 when they were introduced by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), which has the world's largest options and futures contracts outstanding.

The CME developed hurricane futures and options contracts in 2007 following the damaging 2005 hurricane season, which included Hurricane Katrina.

Hurricane contracts are analogous to insurance premiums for insurers, utility and energy companies, state governments, and other market participants, to hedge against potential hurricane risks, said Paul Peterson, director of CME's commodity research and product development.

Hurricane Irene's damage could reach $7 to $13 billion in losses through 10 East Coast states, despite it making landfall only in North Carolina and New Jersey in the continental U.S.

Companies that want to trade or purchase a hurricane contract can only do so at the beginning of the hurricane season, which runs from June through November. They estimate the potential damage in a hurricane season from the southern tip of Texas to Maine's border with Canada. Traders do so by placing their bets on the wind speed and radius of a hurricane, and the CME has a formula to measure the potential damage using publicly available data from the National Hurricane Center.

"Insurance companies are not necessarily concerned about number of storms or severity of a storm -- they're worried about damage over whole season and the dollar value of insurance claims," Peterson said.

He said for the 2011 hurricane season, 3,700 contracts have been traded, or are "outstanding." If all of this year's contracts are redeemed, or paid out, they will be worth $37 million. But that is unlikely: hurricane contracts are "all or nothing" bets. Purchasers only receive a payout after the hurricane season and only if they are accurate with their predictions.

Because there were no major hurricanes in 2010 and 2009, there were no payouts. In 2010 there were 3,875 outstanding contracts and in 2009, there were 4,000.

Banks even hire meteorologists to assist in trading commodities like soy and wheat, which are heavily influenced by weather.

It is unclear how much damage has actually occurred until the cleanup process is complete, especially for the unexpected effect of flooding -- and most homeowner's policies usually do not cover loss due to flooding. But coverage for future flooding coverage can be purchased from the federal government through the National Flood Insurance Program at 1-800-427-4661.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Stocks Advance After Hurricane Weekend

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Stocks rallied to a positive close Monday after a gainful weekend for insurance companies in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

The Dow rose 2.3 percent, closing up 255 points Monday.  The Nasdaq gained 82 points with a 3.3-percent jump.  The S&P closed up 33 points.

Hurricane Irene failed to devastate Eastern coastal cities as much as expected, causing insurance stocks to go up, reports The Wall Street Journal.  Companies like Hartford Financial Services Group, Lincoln National and Travelers all saw gains, rising 13 percent, 8.9 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Beware Hurricane Irene, Beware Insurance Troubles in the Wake

A house in South Nags Head, NC is boarded up with materials used in the last big hurricane to wallop the region, Hurricane Isabel, in 2003. ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- As Americans up and down the eastern seaboard are boarding up windows and hoarding supplies ahead of Hurricane Irene's impending wrath, those who will be hit the hardest may not have considered the storm could be just the beginning of their troubles.

Historically, hurricanes in the U.S. -- like Isabel in 2003 and Katrina in 2005 -- have left homes destroyed and some residents in long, bitter battles with everyone from opportunistic small-time scammers to the federal government to get their lives back to normal.

On Friday, the Consumer Federation of America announced it expects "several hundred thousand" insurance claims to be made in Irene's wake, likely exceeding $6 billion in payouts. To make sure you get what you deserve out of your policy, insurance experts told ABC News what homeowners can do to best protect themselves and their homes when it comes to insurance. Check out their advice below:

Before the Hurricane: Policing Your Policy

Know Your Policy The most common problem homeowners run into, according to Ed Rogan of the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, is not knowing exactly what their policy covers.

"Most people don't realize that their standard homeowners policy does not cover flood insurance," Rogan said. Instead, people must join the federal government's National Flood Insurance Program under a separate policy which can be purchased through their local insurance agent after a 30-day waiting period -- too late for anyone who doesn't have it already.

When a hurricane hits, damage is divided into two categories: wind damage and flood damage. Basic homeowners' insurance protects against wind damage, but only the federal program protects against flood damage.

Keep Your Policy Safe. If you're evacuating ahead of the hurricane, keep a copy of your insurance policy with you "so that you can refer to it after the storm, if needed," the Consumer Federation of America said in a statement.

Inventory Your Possessions. Before you evacuate, make an inventory -- or even take pictures -- of your home, inside and out.

"The more detail you include, the easier it will be for your insurance company to evaluate your loss," the National Association of Insurance Commissioners said in a consumer alert. "Once you have made your inventory ... email the information to family or friends living out of the hurricane threat or to your insurance agent."

After the Hurricane: Making -- and Defending -- Your Claim

Take More Pictures, File Your Claim Quickly. Once you return to your home, be sure that one of the first things you do is take pictures of all the damage and keep a record. Like the "before" pictures, having photographic proof of your damage helps the insurance company evaluate your claim. Also, the CFA said most insurance companies work on a first-come-first-serve basis, so the quicker you file a claim, the quicker you may be compensated.

Chronicle Your Interactions With the Insurance Company. The CFA said one of the smartest things homeowners can do when filing a claim is to be sure and document every interaction with the insurance company.

"You should immediately start a notebook documenting contacts with your insurance company," the CFA said. "List the date, time and a brief description of the exchange. If you need to complain later, this information will be vital."

Make Sure the Agent That Greets You Is Actually an Agent. While you're sifting through rubble, some unsavory characters could go as far as impersonating insurance agents in order to cheat you, according to Rogan and the CFA. If the agent is an independent adjuster hired by the insurance company, ask them what actual company the adjuster is working for and if they're authorized to make claims decisions and payments on behalf of your insurance company.

Rogan said homeowners can check with their state insurance departments to make sure anyone that claims to be an adjuster is licensed. More on fraud schemes later.

Watch How the Insurance Company Files. Since the same insurance agent may deal with your private as well as federal claims, there is a danger the adjuster will attribute more of the damage to flooding -- for which the federal government would have to pay -- than wind damage -- for which the private insurance company would have to pay.

Still, the CFA said if consumers suspect the "potential abuse," they should contact their U.S. representatives and senators with the information.

Unhappy With Your Insurance Company's Response? "If the claim is denied or you feel the offer is too low, demand the company identify the language in your homeowners' policy that served as the basis for denying your claim or offering so little," the CFA said. The insurance company must defend its rational for giving you the payout it did.

The CFA also recommends considering hiring an attorney, sharing the notes you took when dealing with the insurance company and potentially taking them to court.

Beware Home Repair Fraudsters

When homeowners return to damaged homes and start picking up the pieces, often building contractors, plumbers and electricians will offer their services. But not all of these contractors are to be trusted and, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, home repair fraud "increases exponentially following a major storm."

Are They Licensed? One of the first questions you should ask a potential contractor is if they're licensed. All legitimate home repairers should be properly licensed with the state. You may be able to check for any complaints against the contractor at the Better Business Bureau website.

Get an Estimate, Talk to the Insurance Company. The NAIC said that after you shop around with a few potential contractors, make sure each gives you an estimate. Then take that estimate to your insurance company to make sure it will be covered before the hammering/plumbing/wiring starts. If they won't cover the full cost, negotiate with both the insurance company and contractor until you're satisfied -- just don't forget to keep writing everything down.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Disaster Insurance Cost Rising Along with Occurrence of Disasters

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Insurance experts say the likelihood of more floods and hurricanes in the future is rising.

In fact, a new report from a Swiss insurance firm says the number of earthquakes, floods and other disasters around the world rose last year compared to 2009.

For homeowners without disaster insurance, damage from natural disasters can prove to be costly.

"Are you financially ready to pay for what could be hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses to fix your home?," says Anna Maria Andreotis of

Although the premiums for these insurance policies "have been rising and they're expected to continue rising going forward," Andreotis says they may be something to consider.

"If you live in an area that's prone to either earthquakes to hurricanes to flooding that is something you need to keep in mind," she says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Insurers Use Facebook to Monitor Fraud, Risky Behavior

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DES PLAINES, Ill.) – Insurance companies have become just the latest agency to monitor what you write and post on Facebook.

According to the Los Angeles Times, insurance companies are using Facebook and other social networking sites to guard against insurance fraud.

Investigators can use the sites to “look out for things that don't add up," said Frank Scapili, spokesman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, “like someone who claimed they hurt their back too badly to work and then bragged on Facebook about running a marathon."

Some insurance companies also use the sites to monitor “high-risk” behavior such as skydiving. They also look out for keys to a person's character, such as photos of a person drinking.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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