FIRE VICTIM WARNS OTHERS: GET RENTERS INSURANCE

(KVAL News – Oregon )  After a fire destroyed all of her family’s belongings, a Eugene-area woman is warning all renters to purchase insurance.

“You can’t save the sentimental things, of course, but at least if you have children, there is something” if you have insurance, said Rhea Chrismer. “You can replace their bedrooms again.”

A fire destroyed Chrismer’s rented house and garage last Monday, charring most of the family’s belongings. The cause of the fire has not been determined and the investigation is on pause unless new information surfaces, according to Heather Miller with Lane County Fire District 1.

Chrismer, boyfriend Micheal Kezer and Chrismer’s three children were not home. The family was renting the property on Territorial Road but did not have renters insurance.

According to a Farmers Insurance branch in Eugene , the average person will pay less than $200 a year for a renters insurance policy.

“We’re not going to let this stop our little family,” she said. “I’m learning good things come from bad things. You meet really good people.”

People like the passerby who saw smoke coming from the house Monday, searched the rooms for people and finding none, let the family’s dogs outside. The dogs survived.

People like the communities of Crow and Lorane, who have offered clothes and started fundraising efforts. If you would like to donate to the family, an account has been set up at the Selco Bank on Gateway Street. Mention the Kezer Family Fund.

To see a short video of this story, click here: http://www.kval.com/news/49463987.html

Are Your Property Transfers and Acquisitions at Risk?

Over the past several years, exclusions for mold, microbial matter and lead-based paint have consistently appeared on general liability policies to create substantial coverage gaps.

As a result, uncovered claims can be significant. Take, for instance, the discovery of mold in an apartment community in the State of Delaware. A leaking kitchen sink was the verified cause of discoloration and foul odor in a bedroom ceiling as well as the dark-rimmed holes in the bedroom ceiling.

Despite repeated complaints, building management was slow to respond resulting in health-related issues for the two women living in the apartment. During the law suit, the women demonstrated that the owners rarely performed repairs beyond cosmetic patchwork. After two weeks of testimony, the jury awarded $1.04 million to the complainants for personal injuries.

Another example of catastrophic loss occurred at a condominium complex in the Northeast. It included the sickening of two people as well as the death of a 50-year-old woman who contracted Legionnaire’s Disease. The resulting effects included evacuating the entire complex, disinfecting the water system and a significant law suit.

As the above-mentioned situations show, habitational property owners have significant environmental worries.

Other environmental risks commonly associated with habitational real estate may include, but are not limited to:

  • Contaminants from known and unknown historical usage/operations or neighboring properties
  • Construction debris containing hazardous materials
  • Sick Building Syndrome i.e. carbon monoxide, mold, or bacterial air releases from faulty heating, ventilation or air conditioning systems
  • Hazardous chemical storage (such as maintenance degreasers, pool chemicals, pesticides and herbicides used both indoors and outdoors)
  • Lead, asbestos, polychlorinated byphenols (PCBs)
  • “Midnight dumping” on vacant land parcels
  • Leaking underground or aboveground storage tanks or piping.

Managing the risks

Despite the obvious challenges, environmental liabilities needn’t be an obstacle to property transfers and acquisitions if they are proactively identified, managed and mitigated.
In recent years, habitational real estate developers and owners alike have mitigated their environmental exposures through contractual means, the use of environmental insurance or the combination of both. This trend is also likely to continue due to the ever-increasing need of financial institutions to protect their loans in today’s economic climate and the desire of sellers, who would prefer to be free from potential claims related to unknown legacy issues.

At the top of the ($2.5B annual premium) environmental insurance market are the five leading environmental liability insurers of AIG, XL Capital, Zurich, ACE USA, and Chubb, which account for approximately 90 percent of the total premiums written. However, the remaining 10 percent of the environmental liability insurance market is growing with a number of very solid insurers providing at least some form of environmental liability insurance. These markets include Liberty, Markel Underwriting Managers, American Safety, Freberg Environmental/Endurance and Great American.

Available coverages

Each environmental liability insurer offers its own manuscripted coverage forms. To complicate matters even more, each insurer also offers a portfolio of environmental liability coverage forms, with the largest offering up to 15 different coverages totaling over 100 forms in the marketplace.

Among these is Premises Environmental Liability/Pollution Legal Liability (PLL), which provides coverage for pollution conditions or events on, at, under or migrating from a covered location(s). Coverage is afforded for third-party bodily injury, property damage, clean up costs and legal defense expense. A unique feature of many PLL policies is their ability to offer various and different coverage parts under one policy form. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • New pollution conditions
  • Existing pollution conditions
  • On site clean-up coverage
  • Transportation coverage
  • Non Owned Disposal Site (NODS) coverage
  • Business interruption including Loss of Rental Income
  • Mold liability coverage and clean-up
  • Legionella coverage
  • Fines and Penalties and Punitive Damages where allowable by law
  • Natural Resource Damages.

PLL is an effective risk management tool for commercial real estate since it helps to fill the “environmental gap” left in most general liability policies. It also helps reduce the uncertainty about environmental liability associated with the property and provides simple asset protection from potentially catastrophic environmental events associated with day-to-day operations.

In today’s environmental insurance market, available programs can even be tailored to address the diverse needs of each property and then structured to meet a variety of requirements that include regulatory obligations, contract requirements, lender requirements, landlord obligations, and business objectives. Another important aspect of coverage offered under PLL is that it can be structured to provide coverage for contamination, even if it is known certain environmental conditions already exist on site.

Fortunately, the environmental insurance marketplace is continually adapting to keep pace with the growing risk management demands of real estate owners and lenders—demands that are not likely to subside in the near future due to the costly nature of environmental liabilities.

BLOGGERS, BEWARE: WHAT YOU WRITE CAN GET YOU SUED

(The Wall Street Journal)                         A growing number of lawsuits are being filed against bloggers based on a wide variety of allegations, from defamation to copyright infringement. The Citizen Media Law Project at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University reports that 106 civil lawsuits were filed against bloggers and others in social networks and online forums in 2007, compared with 12 such lawsuits filed in 2003. According to the Media Law Resource Center in New York, approximately $17.4 million has been awarded in trials against bloggers so far. Although many lawsuits are dismissed or settled before trial, the risks for bloggers are expanding. One blogger recently named in a lawsuit was fortunate because her legal defense was covered by her personal umbrella insurance policy from Allstate Corp. These policies provide additional liability protection, often including defamation, libel and slander, coverage that varies according to the insurer, policy language and state law. Standard homeowners policies generally do not protect bloggers from lawsuits but many personal umbrella policies do. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. and some other insurers offer protection in many states from the risk of lawsuits for something written or posted online as part of a special personal injury endorsement to a homeowners policy. Bloggers are advised to check with insurers on the specifics of their policies. According to the Insurance Information Institute, a $1 million umbrella policy costs an average of $200 to $350 a year in addition to regular homeowners and auto premiums.

STUDY REVEALS AUTO INSURANCE PREFERENCE FOR U.S. HISPANICS

(TMC News)      In a study published by Geoscape, several revealing facts about the auto insurance market came to light. The publication of this 2009 auto insurance syndicated survey database, called “BehaviorBase(TM) Auto Insurance”, draws upon 1,400 carefully sampled survey respondents across demographic and economic segments nationwide. The first of its kind, this database provides a multi-dimensional view of the large and fast growing Latino population and their adoption of auto insurance as well as their impressions of the underwriting companies and coverage options.

 

With the steady-resident U.S. Hispanic population reaching 48.6 million this year, insurance companies are looking more closely at where to find policyholder revenue growth. With multiple wage earners and drivers per household along with increasing adoption rates, Hispanics are now an attractive target for insurance companies (particularly auto insurance).

“BehaviorBase Auto has validated some of our hunches and has shed light on behaviors that can help us hone the strategies and tactics within our Latino initiatives…the competitive intelligence was a big eye-opener, as we drilled down on language segments,” states Luisa Acosta-Franco, Vice President of Multicultural Marketing for Farmers Insurance.

 

Among the insights borne within the study is the finding that unacculturated (assimilated) Hispanics focus more heavily on customer service than price, relative to more acculturated Hispanics. Both aided and unaided brand awareness reveals which companies have managed to gain mindshare within the Hispanic community and switching behavior data provides insights to avoiding policy churn.

 

“BehaviorBase Auto Insurance is first in a series of industry-specific consumer behavior resources that Geoscape will develop to provide actionable insights to our clients,” according to Cesar M Melgoza, President of Geoscape.

An executive summary of the database will be available at no charge from the company’s website and the full database along with tabular and graphical information and interpretation of results is available by subscription. During the summer of ’09, BehaviorBase Auto will be available within the Geoscape Intelligence System (GIS) which offers a suite of databases and analytic modules within an online software-as-a-service platform.

 

About Geoscape Geoscape serves its clients by providing business strategy, analytics, databases and automated intelligence systems. The online Geoscape Intelligence System (GIS), the DirecTarget database enrichment system and a variety of geo-demographic, consumer, business and media databases enable actionable insights that lead our clients to gain significant business advantages. Geoscape is a portfolio company of Goldman Sachs, Inc. with principal offices in Miami. Geoscape is pleased to have served most of the Fortune 500 corporations over the last several years.

 

 

Insuring your home-based business success


SPECIAL TO THE STAR

It wasn’t until a valued customer called, freaked out by a rogue bumble bee she found resting dead in her loose leaf tea, that the risks of running a home-based business dawned on Hatem Jahshan.By then, Jahshan and his wife Tonia had been operating their tea party consultancy, Steeped Tea, out of the converted basement and two-car garage of their Hamilton home for a full year.

Though he also runs a fast-food restaurant, Jahshan knew zilch about protecting his home-based business.

“In fact, it felt like you didn’t even have to worry about insurance when you start your home business. As a business person, I like to hang out with business people, and nobody’s got insurance. It’s a very, very quiet issue that nobody talks about,” he said. “Usually, you start thinking about insurance when bad things happen.”

Facing added premiums can be daunting for the small business owner, but insurance shouldn’t be a dirty word, say the experts. No matter whether you’re running a full-scale taxidermy outfit or typing data into a single laptop, protection is integral to a savvy business plan.

“The worst case scenario is that you could be financially ruined if you don’t have insurance,” said Peter Warner of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

“A policy will cover anything pertaining to running your business.”

As soon as doing business from home enters your mind, set up a meeting with your insurance broker, agent, or the company that insures your home, he said.

They’ll listen to the particulars, asses whether you’re underinsured and offer options to ease the nerves.

In many cases, the company providing your home or “property” insurance can add an extension to your homeowner’s policy, protecting you against common business risks.

Standard property insurance rarely protects anything business-related. Should fire rip through your home, compensation won’t be offered to replace computers, printers, fax machines, samples and paper records. And it won’t protect you from a lawsuit.

Generally, “home-based business” or “home business” insurance provides three areas of coverage: business property; business interruption; and legal liability.

The first protects property kept on or off the home premises, including inventory, samples, supplies, tools, filing cabinets, computer equipment and software.

If disaster strikes the home, rendering office space unfit for use, business interruption coverage pays the cost of your temporary office relocation, thus insuring your products and services are delivered to customers.

Legal liability coverage – usually set at $1- or $2-million – becomes a lifesaver if your company’s products or services cause harm to a customer. If Steeped Tea’s frazzled caller had alleged trauma or an allergic reaction to the pesky bee (which likely slipped into the mix when the tea was being dried in India’s fields before export) this coverage would have paid for legal defence or compensation ordered by the courts.

A classic example of legal liability involves a delivery person who slips on a piece of ice while carrying a package up your front steps; falls and breaks a leg; then sues.

“The liability portion of your home insurance doesn’t protect you, because the activity was directly related to your business,” Warner said.

Insurance providers calculate premiums based on exposure to risks – the possibility of loss – receipts and how much income you’re making from the business. The lower both are, the lower the premium. Knitting sweaters and selling them online is likely to be considered less risky than running a massage clinic that brings clients into the home.

Premiums are likely to run several hundred dollars a year – usually not more than $500, according to the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario. But if your business liability is higher than that for your property policy, it will probably be boosted to the same level, potentially costing you more.

Most insurers keep lists spelling out what is or isn’t likely to fall under their home business insurance. The tricky part of the equation arises with vastly increased exposure. The line blurs between where home business insurance ends and commercial insurance begins.

To assess whether obtaining a heftier policy might be wise, look at how often clients, or consumers, visit your home and also, whether you run the risk of “professional” exposure. The latter occurs when a business person provides advice or expertise to a client who later might theoretically allege it caused them financial or other harm – for instance, an accountant.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to navigating home-based insurance coverage. When in doubt, call a broker – who represents multiple insurers rather than a single provider – suggests Bryan Yetman, IBAO president-elect.

“You can have a candid, honest conversation with your broker. They’ll give you a true evaluation and then you decide,” he said.

“Shop around,” agreed Catherine Swift, chair of advocacy organization Canadian Federation of Independent Business, adding the biggest complaint mounted by members is around insurance costs and short notice of cost increases.

Every business presents risks, but someone who buries his head in the sand could be making the riskiest move of all, the experts agreed.

“(Insurance) brings me peace of mind now,” Jahshan said. “Once you have insurance you can remove fear out of the way and you can actually focus on bettering your business.”