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    Tuesday
    Jan012019

    Men vs. Women Drivers: Does Gender Really Matter on the Road?

    For years, insurance companies have regularly charged female drivers less for auto insurance coverage than males. Insurance companies claim it’s because women drivers statistically have fewer car crashes. However, no studies have actually proven that there is a difference between men and women’s driving abilities.

    Looking at the stats

    Over the past ten years or so, male fatalities have outnumbered female fatalities 2-to-1 in car accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Men also have a higher rate of collisions that result in just property damage—also a 2-to-1 ratio.

    According to the American Insurance Association, men are involved in 50 percent more fatal crashes per 100 million miles driven than females. This divergence is most prominent in drivers in their late teens and early to mid-20’s. 

    Examining the male crash phenomena

    No one can pinpoint exactly why men have more car crashes than women. Many researchers argue nature versus nurture theories. Some researchers blame natural male biochemicals—one study claims that high testosterone levels in men causes them to take more risks behind the wheel. On the other hand, some researchers say that men are products of their culture. These experts say society has taught males to act more competitively in general, which makes them more aggressive drivers on the road. Other studies point out that women are better multi-taskers, which makes them better drivers.

    However, many people simply don’t buy into any of these studies. Skeptics say a person’s gender simply cannot predict whether or not they are a safe driver. The National Organization for Women’s Insurance Project points out that men simply have more crashes than women because they drive more miles each year. Because men are on the road more, they expose themselves to a more risk.

    The gap narrows
    Recent statistics show that the gap is narrowing between men and women crashes. Between 1975 and 2003, female fatalities in car accidents increased 14 percent, while male fatalities dropped by 11 percent.

    Some experts say this is simply because women are on the road more these days. On top of that, an increasing number of women are becoming more aggressive on the road. If this trend continues, experts say insurance companies may soon stop taking gender into account as they calculate drivers’ insurance premiums.

    A few states lead the way

    Despite the latest research, insurance companies in most states continue to use gender as a factor in calculating premiums. Of course, insurers also take other things into account, including annual mileage, the type of car, the person’s previous driving record and even their Zip code (whether they live in the city, the suburbs or a rural area).

    However, a handful of states, including California, Connecticut, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, no longer allow insurance companies to use gender as a factor to assess risk and calculate premiums.

    Thursday
    Dec272018

    Understanding the Difference Between Claims Made & Reported and Pure Claims Made

    Under a claims-made policy, the insured is required to file claims during the policy period or during the extended reporting period (ERP), if applicable. However, there are two distinct types of claims-made policies. One is the "Claims-Made & Reported Form" and the other is the "Pure Claims-Made Form." While the differences of the policies are subtle, not understanding the differences can have a significant impact on your coverage.

    The most commonly used claims-made policy is the "Claims-Made & Reported Form." This policy requires that not only must the claim be made during the policy period or ERP; it must also be reported during this same period. This means that the insured has a designated time frame within which claims can be filed.

    The "Pure Claims-Made" Form is less prevalent. It also requires that a claim be made during the policy period or the ERP. However, the major difference between this and the "Claims-Made & Reported Form" is that under this type of policy, the insured is only required to report the claim as soon as possible. This means that the report of a claim may happen after the policy's expiration.

    If your company's professional liability policy is a "Claims-Made & Reported Form," then time is an important factor when a claim needs to be filed. It is your obligation to report a claim or a potential circumstance that could lead to a claim to your carrier within the policy period or the ERP. If you attempt to handle the situation internally to avoid reporting it to your carrier, the delay could negatively affect your coverage. Professional liability polices are very specific as to how and where to report a claim. Failure to comply with these provisions can negate your coverage. The "Pure Claims-Made" policy, on the other hand, only requires that the claim be reported as soon as practical, which allows for more flexibility. This means that the claim can be reported at any time in the future even after the policy expires.

    In addition to the issue of claim reporting time, many "Claims-Made & Reported Form" policies have an awareness provision that allows the insured to report any circumstance that may lead to a future claim. Such notice must also be given during the policy period or ERP.

    When a circumstance is reported, it's considered to have been reported during that policy period even if it results in litigation after the policy has expired. Because each policy has a different reporting provision, it is important that you know your policy's reporting requirement to ensure your coverage remains in effect.

    Keep in mind that any extended reporting period provided by the policy only extends the period in which a claim may be reported. The wrongful act that precipitated the claim must have taken place before the policy expired.

    Tuesday
    Dec252018

    The Right Homeowners Insurance Can Be a Homesaver

    Homeowner's insurance is an essential purchase. Mortgage holders require their borrowers to keep this coverage in force while the mortgage has a balance. However, the coverage is just as important for those who own their homes free and clear. Few individuals have sufficient funds to rebuild a destroyed home. For this reason, it is important for homeowners to have the right coverage, not just any coverage. Failure to consider a few factors can leave them with a too-small claim check or even no claim check at all. Probably the most important of these are the amount of insurance on the home and the perils that could possibly damage it.

    Insurance industry consulting firm MSB has estimated that as many as two-thirds of American homes are underinsured, by an average 21 percent. This means that a home that would cost $100,000 to rebuild is probably insured for only $79,000. It is important for the insurance limit to reflect building costs in the area, not the prices that homes are selling for. It should also take into account the cost of rebuilding to comply with local codes, the expense of not buying materials in bulk, and any custom features the home has. For a nominal fee, MSB offers an online tool to help homeowners calculate their insurance needs at www.accucoverage.com.

    Homeowner's insurance typically covers damage caused by fire, lightning, vehicles, windstorms, and several other perils, but it does not cover everything. For example, it does not cover damage caused by flooding. Too many people fail to consider this; more than 40 percent of New Orleans homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina lacked flood insurance, and the insured rate was higher there than in other affected areas. Homeowners who live near ponds, creeks, lakes or oceans should give serious consideration to buying flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program, and even those who do not live near water should think about it. Officials with the NFIP estimate that one in four flood claims occurs in low- to moderate-risk areas.

    Other perils that the policy may not cover include earthquakes, mudslides, mold infestations, and gradual rotting of building components. Homeowners in areas with frequent seismic activity should consider separate coverage for earthquakes and other types of earth movement.

    The amount of insurance and the scope of the coverage have a major impact on the policy's cost, but another influential factor is the deductible -- the amount the homeowner pays out of pocket before the company pays. Higher deductibles result in lower premiums because the company is spared the expense of handling small losses that fall below the deductible. Each homeowner must decide the deductible amount that she can comfortably afford. Since homeowners often pay insurance premiums for many years without suffering a loss, the savings from the higher deductible discount may well offset the higher out-of-pocket expense if a loss occurs.

    There are several other considerations homeowners have when they buy insurance. Do you have expensive pieces of jewelry, collectibles, musical instruments or artwork? Do you run a business out of your home? Do you or your children own laptop computers? Are you a landlord? Do you own snowmobiles or boats? Operate a home day care center? You may need special coverage for all of these. To identify your coverage needs and determine the cost of insuring them, speak with a qualified insurance agent who insures many homes. She can present options and provide information about the financial strength of companies and their claims handling practices.

    Homeowner's insurance is not just another expense. It is a vital part of a homeowner's financial plan. Take the time to make certain you have the right coverage at a reasonable cost.

    Thursday
    Dec202018

    Closing the Coverage Gaps in Your Lawyer's Professional Liability Insurance Policy

    Having gaps in your liability coverage is like venturing out into a snowstorm without an overcoat. In either case, it's tough to succeed without protection. Before purchasing any insurance policy, you need to fully understand the basic structure of the contract in terms of what's covered and not covered.

    In general, liability policies are written as "claims-made" policies; that is, the claim for a wrongful act, error or omission must be made and reported to the carrier while the policy is in effect. This means that should your current insurance policy terminate for any reason, such as the insurer refusing to renew or your firm allowing the policy to lapse while shopping for new coverage, any wrongful acts occurring during this gap between the expiration of the old policy and the start date of the new one will not be covered unless you have either "prior acts coverage" or "extended reporting endorsements."

    The first of these, "prior acts coverage" is written into your new policy.  This allows for all incidents leading to claims after your former policy expired to be covered regardless of when they happened provided the coverage is written without a time limitation. There is generally a surcharge for this unlimited coverage based upon how many previous years you want covered. A carrier will not always write this type of "full prior acts" coverage even if you agree to the surcharge. For example, a carrier may refuse because information on your application indicates a high level of risk. Another alternative may be that the carrier provides full coverage, but only within a more restrictive policy. The carrier may also elect to provide prior acts coverage but with the stipulation that coverage would not be in effect under certain circumstances, such as a claim in which the firm knew of the wrongful act, error or omission or should reasonably have know about it prior to the start date of the policy.

    Adding "extended reporting endorsements" or "tail" coverage to your current liability policy allows you to make and report claims for prior wrongful acts, errors or omissions after the policy has expired for a specific period of time. There are several instances when this type of coverage is critical. The first is when the insured is changing carriers and "prior acts coverage" is not available or is too restrictive in scope. Secondly, this coverage is even more important when the carrier change is necessitated by the insurer's refusal to renew coverage and your law firm doesn't have an alternative yet. There is an additional surcharge for extended reporting coverage.

    The other scenario in which this coverage is vital is when a lawyer is no longer actively practicing. When an attorney retires, becomes a judge, or goes from private practice to in-house counsel, the exposures that may arise from the former practice can be covered by "extended reporting endorsements."

    The time to determine what kind of extended reporting your policy provides is before you purchase. Each carrier determines how long an extended period they will provide, under what conditions this coverage can be purchased, and the cost for such an endorsement. In some cases, the coverage is sold in multiples of the policy premium; while in other cases, the cost is the rate that is in effect at the time the endorsement is purchased. 

    Tuesday
    Dec182018

    Finding the Best Home Contractor for the Job

    Let's say you're about to take on a house project, whether it's a major kitchen renovation or a simple painting job, and you decide to hire a contractor. So, you flip through the phone book and call the first number you see listed under "Kitchen Remodeling" or "Painters." Not so fast.

    Many homeowners don't realize that they are taking a huge risk when they hire just any contractor off the street. If you don't do your homework, you could be exposing yourself to massive amounts of liability. What if a painter falls off his ladder and badly injures his back while painting your living room? What if a kitchen contractor hits a pipe and floods your home? Who will cover the lofty expenses associated with these types of accidents?

    The thought of such a home improvement catastrophe is enough to send chills down any homeowner's spine. This is why it's so important to hire only licensed, insured, highly experienced contractors to work on your house project-no matter how big or small the job may be.

    Here are a few rules of thumb for hiring a reliable contractor and limiting your liability:

    Ask for recommendations

    One of the best ways to find a dependable contractor is simply to ask your friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors. Ask everyone you know and trust if they can suggest a reputable contractor who did exceptional work for them. More than likely, if a friend was happy with a contractor, you will be too.

    Avoid solicitors

    Steer clear of contractors who go door-to-door or make cold calls in search of work. The best, most reliable contractors don't have to resort to such solicitations.

    Don't fall for "limited time" offers

    If a contractor quotes you a "limited time" project price that will increase if you don't hire him immediately, run like the wind. This can be a sign that the contractor is dishonest or illegitimate.

    Get it in writing

    Don't settle for verbal agreements. Request a written estimate that includes a detailed breakdown of the project costs, including materials and labor fees.

    Verify, verify, verify

    Before you hire any contractor, make sure that they are licensed, bonded and insured-and don't just take their word for it. Verify all of this by asking for certificates of insurance for workers' compensation as well as info on their general liability policies. If the contractor working on your home plans to use subcontractors, be sure to ask for the certificates for those subcontractors as well.

    Read the fine print

    Before the contractor begins work on your house project, request a copy of the proposed contract. Read all of the fine print and make sure all the terms are fair and reasonable. The contract should clearly establish an independent contractor relationship. It should also include a "hold harmless clause" in your favor, especially if the contractor is doing major work that involves heavy equipment (such as installing a swimming pool or adding a room to your house.) A hold harmless clause ensures that the contractor will cover any expenses associated with members of the public who are injured or whose property is damaged during the project.

    Check with the Better Business Bureau

    If you're still not sure, contact the Better Business Bureau for more information. They can tell you if any consumers have filed complaints against the contractor. Visit the bureau's website at www.bbb.org.


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