Monday, March 31, 2008

Massachusetts Man Arraigned in Comp Fraud Case

A Brockton, Massachusetts man has been arraigned on charges he collected more than $9,000 in workers’ compensation benefits while he worked at two different jobs. John Stevens, 58, was charged with Workers' Compensation Fraud (1 count) and Larceny Over $250 (1 count).On May 5, 2005, Stevens, then employed by Capeway Aluminum and Vinyl Inc., injured his ankle in a work related accident. On May 11, 2005, as a result of the on the job injury, Stevens’ insurer, AIG Insurance Company, began paying temporary total disability benefits. Stevens reportedly continued to receive benefits through March 28, 2006. During this time period, Stevens allegedly fraudulently collected a total of $9,720 in workers' comp benefits. According to authorities, while he collected disability benefits, Stevens continued to work on two construction projects over a three month period from October 2005 through December 2005 and also during March 2006. On Jan. 15, 2006, Stevens allegedly submitted an Employee Earning Report (E.E.R.) for the time period from May 2005 to December 2005 to the AIG Insurance Company stating that he was entitled to benefits and earned no other wages. Investigators from the Insurance Fraud Bureau of Massachusetts (IFB) and the AIG Insurance Company found that Stevens was allegedly paid $26,000 for the contract work completed on the two construction jobs during the time period in which he reported to the DIA that he was not working. The alleged fraud was initially detected by the AIG Insurance Company and reported to the IFB. This case was referred to the Attorney General’s Office on Oct. 10, 2007. Stevens was arraigned on March 21, 2008, in Brockton District Court where he entered a plea of not guilty and was released on his own personal recognizance. Stevens is due back in court on May 19, 2008, for a pre-trial hearing.

Kentucky Man Pleads Guilty to Fraud

A Spencer County, Kentucky man must repay $9,718.66 in health insurance benefits he received after reportedly lying on the application. Douglas Richardson, 37, of Taylorsville, reportedly admitted that he lied on a health insurance application with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, stating that he didn’t have any significant health problems when he actually had several specific medical conditions. Anthem paid claims based on this fraudulent information. He pleaded guilty to one felony count of insurance fraud and will be supervised for five years through a pretrial diversion agreement in Jefferson Circuit Court. Richardson was ordered to make restitution to Anthem for the claims paid on his behalf. In addition, he must pay a fine of $918.40 to KOI for investigative expenses. He waived his right to request that the record be expunged of this charge.

Brown & Brown Purchases Powers & Co.

Michael Paschke, regional executive vice president of Brown & Brown Inc., and Richard Powers, president of Powers & Effler Insurance Brokers Inc., d/b/a Powers & Company Insurance Agents and Brokers, of Rocklin, California (Powers & Company), announced the asset acquisition of Powers & Company by a subsidiary of Brown & Brown Inc. Powers & Company is an insurance agency serving clients in the states of California, Nevada and Arizona, with annualized revenues of approximately $11.2 million. Powers and his staff will continue to operate out of their existing office as a new stand-alone Brown & Brown profit center.

Main Street America Group Unveils Auto Product

At recent kickoff meetings in Maryland and Tennessee, The Main Street America Group introduced its new Personal Auto MVP (multivariate rating program) product to its independent insurance agents throughout these two states and now has launched MVP in nine states. A version of Personal Auto MVP has also been introduced in Massachusetts. Starting Tuesday, the super regional carrier's NGM Insurance Company will offer MVP to Bay State consumers via its independent agents in the new "managed competition" environment. With the launch of Massachusetts MVP, NGM is implementing an average premium decrease of 7.6 percent. Approximately 70 percent of current NGM auto policyholders in the commonwealth will receive rate decreases on their policy renewals. Personal Auto MVP is Main Street America's new rating program designed to provide greater pricing flexibility for the carrier's new personal auto policies. It features "predictive modeling" or "multivariate" rating, which considers a variety of risk characteristics simultaneously, as well as the interactions and correlations among these characteristics, to price a policy. In addition to Maryland, Tennessee and Massachusetts, the new rating program has also been launched in Connecticut, Georgia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Vermont.

Ga. Residents Should Hire Contractors Carefully

Those Georgia residents eager to move their recoveries along after the March 14-16 severe storms and tornadoes, will likely need one or more contractors to help them repair disaster damages or rebuild their homes and businesses. State and federal disaster recovery officials are urging citizens to be smart consumers when it comes to choosing professional help.

To help the process go smoothly, recovery officials are offering the following suggestions:

  • Use local contractors first. If you were satisfied with past work done by local licensed contractors, try them first. If they cannot help you, ask for recommendations. If you must hire a contractor you don't know, talk to several of them before signing anything.

  • Ask for references. Contractors should be willing to provide names of previous customers. Contact some of those customers and ask if they would hire the contractor again.

  • Ask for a written estimate. Make sure it includes everything you expect the contractor to do. Also, find out up-front if the contractor will charge a fee for that estimate.

  • Ask for proof of insurance. Be sure the contractor has disability and workers' compensation insurance. If not, you may be liable for accidents on your property.

  • Get a written contract. The contract should clearly state all work, costs and the payment schedule. Never sign a blank contract or one with blank spaces. It may also be worthwhile to have an attorney look at the contract before signing it.

  • Ask for guarantees in writing (if separate from the contract). If the contractor provides guarantees, he/she should clearly state what is covered by that guarantee, who is responsible for fulfilling the guarantee (dealer, contractor or manufacturer), and how long the guarantee is valid.

  • Get a copy of the final, signed contract. Read it over carefully before signing. Once signed, the contract is binding on both you and the contractor.

  • Do not sign off before the job is finished. Make sure the work is done to your satisfaction before signing completion papers or making a final payment. A reputable contractor will not threaten you or pressure you to sign if the job is not finished properly.

Check references, obtain written estimates and avoid large cash payments up front. Check with the Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs, your area's Better Business Bureau and other appropriate local and state agencies.

Report: Marsh, Willis Comply with Settlement Terms

An outside consultant’s review of current producer compensation practices at insurance brokers Marsh and Willis has found both companies are complying with the terms of settlement agreements with New York’s Insurance Department and Attorney General, First Deputy Insurance Superintendent Kermitt Brooks announced. The companies settled with the state agencies in early 2005 in order to resolve concerns about anticompetitive practices, agreeing to provide restitution to policyholders and adopt business reforms designed to avoid conflicts of interest. Marsh is the nation’s largest insurance broker, and Willis the third largest. The Department released two reports by consultant RSM McGladrey. The Department had engaged RSM to monitor and test both Marsh and Willis for compliance with the agreements. Such compliance also is pertinent to subsequent Multistate Regulatory Settlement Agreements patterned after the New York Department's agreements with the companies. RSM found that both restitution funds – $850 million for Marsh and $50 million for Willis – had been appropriately funded and disbursed, with more than 99% of the settlement checks already cashed. The consultant also found general compliance with disclosure requirements. These include disclosing to clients quotes sought and received on behalf of those clients whenever a policy is placed, renewed, or otherwise serviced. Any compensation the broker would receive in connection with those quotes must be disclosed and consented to by the client. This ensures that the client is fully aware of all available options. To help prevent conflicts of interest, employees of the brokers are also prohibited from accepting gifts of material value from insurers.

Former Delaware Doc Nabbed in Scheme

As a result of a joint investigation conducted by the Ohio Department of Insurance, the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, the Delaware County Drug Task Force and the Ohio Chiropractic Board, Zahir Sherazee, a former Delaware-based chiropractor whose license was reportedly revoked in 2005, was ordered to serve a five year, two month prison sentence. He was also fined $20,000. Sherazee was sentenced recently in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas. During a four-month investigation that started last January, it was reportedly discovered that Sherazee, from 2005 through 2007, fraudulently billed insurance companies in excess of $600,000 for chiropractic services he never rendered. A search warrant executed during the course of the investigation resulted in authorities reportedly seizing steroids from Sherazee’s home along with documents pertaining to his improper billing activity. Under a recent plea negotiation, Sherazee plead guilty to insurance fraud, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, unlicensed practice of chiropractic services and possession of drugs. He agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $250,000 to the three insurance companies he defrauded.

Aon Risk Services Unveils Trucking Certification

Aon Risk Services, the retail brokerage and risk management unit of Aon Corporation, has developed the first nationwide fleet safety certification for trucking companies. SafeFleet Certification, developed by the Trucking practice, is a performance-based safety certification that compares a fleet's safety performance against averages for the U.S. trucking industry. Each trucking company's safety performance is measured against the industry average in several safety benchmarks, including out-of-service violations; DOT crashes -- those that involve injury, fatality or tow; crash-related injuries and fatalities; and injuries that result in lost workdays. Fleets earn a Gold Certification if their safety performance is 35 percent better than the trucking-industry average, a Silver Certification if safety performance is 25 percent better, or Bronze Certification at 15 percent better. Fleets renew their certification every two years. SafeFleet measures driver and vehicle compliance, crash performance, and workplace injury performance. Excellent safety performance in these areas helps reduce the cost of risk for auto liability, physical damage, workers' compensation, and occupational injury events. With SafeFleet Certification, a trucking company can state that their safety performance has been audited by an independent third party, and the company has an excellent safety history.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Gotbaum Family Files Claim Against City of Phoenix

The family of Carol Anne Gotbaum, the New York woman who died in police custody at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in September, has filed a claim against the City of Phoenix, the first move in filing a wrongful-death lawsuit. The claim was immediately rejected by the city in a letter to lawyers for the family of Gotbaum, who died Sept. 28 in a police holding cell at the airport after being arrested for disorderly conduct. Gotbaum, the daughter-in-law of New York's public advocate, was on her way from New York to enter an alcohol treatment center in Tucson. The claim seeks $8 million for her husband, three children and her estate. Phoenix authorities have contended all along that they did not do anything wrong during Gotbaum's detention.

New York Man Arrested in Fraud Case

A Poughquag, New York man already facing charges for assaulting an elderly woman with a shopping cart was arrested March 17 for trying to fraudulently obtain $9,000 in lost wage benefits, the New York State Insurance Department reported. James M. Curcio, 45, was charged with insurance fraud following his arrest by New York State Police, assisted by the Department’s Frauds Bureau. He was remanded to Putnam County Jail on $7,500 bail pending a hearing. Curcio reportedly tried to claim lost wage benefits for an 18-week period starting from the date of an April 8, 2007, auto accident. An investigation revealed that Curcio was unemployed at the time of the accident. Curcio was hired as a part-time cook in May, but was reportedly fired after repeatedly missing work because he was in jail on assault and theft charges. He was accused of taking a shopping cart, pushing it into a woman and then fleeing with the cart and groceries. Curcio, whose claim for lost wage benefits was denied, could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison if convicted of insurance fraud.

Texas Minimum Auto Liability Insurance to Increase

The minimum amount of automobile liability insurance Texas drivers are required to carry for bodily injury/property damage will increase on April 1 from the current $20,000/$40,000/$15,000 (“20/40/15”) coverage to “25/50/25” coverage. Texas law requires people who drive in Texas to be financially responsible for the accidents they cause. Most drivers do this by buying auto liability insurance. Liability insurance pays to repair or replace the other driver’s vehicle and pays the medical expenses of the other party; it does not pay to repair or replace the policyholder’s vehicle. The current minimum amount of liability insurance required by law is $20,000 for each person injured in an accident, up to a total of $40,000 for everyone injured in an accident, and $15,000 for property damage per accident. The limits will increase on April 1 to $25,000 of coverage for each injured person, up to a total of $50,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage. The 80th Legislature amended the current financial responsibility law in 2007 to increase the auto liability limits amid concerns that the current limits aren’t enough to cover the costs of an accident resulting in severe injury or major vehicle damage. The limits will increase again on Jan. 1, 2011, to $30,000 of coverage for each injured person, up to a total of $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage per accident (30/60/25). Drivers who carry minimum limits will begin to notice the new limits as they renew their auto policies or buy a new policy, but they won’t need to take any action unless contacted by their insurance company.

Regulations Costing Consumers Money

A new ConsumerGram released by the American Consumer Institute (ACI) finds that consumers living in states with high levels of insurance regulation pay hundreds of dollars more per year than consumers living in states with less insurance regulation. The analysis, which uses state ranking data from a Heartland and Competitive Enterprise Institute joint study and adjusts for differences in cost-of-living, property crime and natural disasters, finds that consumers are worse off in states with higher regulation. The study calculated the difference in consumer premium costs between states with high and low-rated state insurance regulation and, after correcting for various factors such as loss exposure from hurricane activity, found that excessive regulations cost consumers $13.7 billion dollars. The American Consumer Institute is an independent educational and research institute. For more information about the Institute, visit http://www.theamericanconsumer.org.


Massachusetts Drivers Seeing Reform Benefits

Massachusetts drivers are now reportedly benefiting from the kind of insurance regulatory reform USAA has supported for many years. USAA members will start seeing auto insurance rate reductions an average of 15 percent as the first wave of auto insurance policies begins to renew this month. The reductions are the direct result of efforts by the Massachusetts Division of Insurance to improve the states regulatory environment. The regulatory change went into effect last year to allow private insurers to set their own rates for the first time in nearly 30 years. The new system goes into effect April 1, 2008. USAA members with policies renewing in April are reportedly already starting to receive their renewal statements with the new lower rates. Members will see the effects of the rate reductions throughout the year as their annual policies renew.

Chartwell Expands Arizona Operations

Chartwell Independent Insurance Brokers LLC, a wholesale and specialty insurance broker focusing on high-risk, hard-to-place coverage, has added an Excess & Surplus (E&S) Casualty Division to its expanding Scottsdale, Arizona office. The Chartwell E&S Casualty Division will consist of Senior Vice President Colin Rice and Vice President Chad Krumbach and an account support team. The team will have national reach, but local focus in the West and Southwest, and provide retail clients with a complete casualty offering, including general liability, product liability, professional liability, miscellaneous errors and omissions (E&O), as well as other casualty coverages.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

BREAKING: At Least 2 Dead in Fla. Crane Collapse

Two people were killed and at least four suffered serious injuries Tuesday when a piece of crane collapsed and came through the roof of an unoccupied residence on a construction site in downtown Miami. The six were reportedly inside the home which was temporarily being used as an office on a large condo project, Paramount Bay. Earlier this month, seven people died in New York City when a crane came free from an apartment tower project and fell into a nearby building.

Missouri Gov. Offers Tips on Flood Recovery

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt and the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration encourage Missourians to be on guard against unscrupulous home repair and restoration businesses following the recent flooding. Consumers should question any home repair company that will complete work for much less or much more than an insurance company’s estimates. If a repair company’s estimate is too low, the quality of materials or workmanship may not be up to par. If it’s too high, the company may be price gouging or performing repairs not covered by your insurance policy. Most flood insurance is written through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Insurance companies sell and service policies through an arrangement with FEMA. These tips are offered to consumers filing flood insurance claims:

Call your insurance company and speak to the claims person (adjuster).

  • Generally, your adjuster will contact you within 24-48 hours after receiving your notice of loss. However, depending on local conditions and the severity of flooding, it may take more time.
  • The adjuster will likely want to meet with you at your house to inspect the damage.
  • Take good notes and keep track of the dates of any conversations you have with your agent or adjuster.

You are required to protect your home from further damage.

  • This might include boarding up your home if there was damage to the building or cleaning up water from a backed up drain.

You will need to provide proof of your loss; having receipts/pictures will help.

  • Separate damaged items from undamaged items. If necessary, place damaged items outside the home.
  • Local officials may require the disposal of damaged items. If you dispose of items, please keep a swatch, sample or picture of the damaged items for the adjuster.

Don’t feel rushed or pushed into agreeing with the amount paid for your claim if you’re not comfortable with it.

  • It might help to have your contractor meet with you and the insurance adjuster.

If you have trouble or questions, contact FEMA at 1-800-427-4661.

Tennessee Disaster Aid Tops $9.3 Million

More than $9.3 million has been approved in federal disaster assistance grants and loans for Tennesseans recovering from last month's severe storms and tornadoes report the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). Of the 18 counties declared for individual assistance, 4,313 Tennesseans have registered. The deadline to register for disaster assistance is Monday, April 7, 5 p.m. CST.

Disaster recovery numbers through Monday, March 24 include:

  • $3,147,185 has been approved through FEMA's Individuals and Households Program for housing assistance, including rental assistance and repairs to homes for eligible applicants. Of that, $2,219,181 is for housing assistance and $928,004 is to help applicants cover other essential disaster-related needs.
  • $6,249,500 in loans to homeowners, renters and business owners has been approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
  • 3,038 residents have visited Disaster Recovery Centers operated jointly by FEMA and the state of Tennessee.
  • 2,289 home inspections have been completed.

Calif. Man Nabbed in Auto Fraud Scheme

Ventura County (California) District Attorney Gregory Totten announced that Yair Romo Hernandez (DOB 12/3/81) of Thousand Oaks pleaded guilty to one count of felony auto insurance fraud. Hernandez will be sentenced on April 21, 2008, at 1:30 p.m., in courtroom 12, by the Honorable Bruce Clark. According to California Highway Patrol detectives, at 9 a.m. on Sept. 22, 2007, Hernandez falsely reported to the Ventura Police Department that his 2007 Nissan pickup truck was stolen from the downtown Ventura area the previous night. Three days later, on Sept. 25, Hernandez filed a claim for his “stolen vehicle” with Topa Insurance. CHP detectives determined however, that between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. on Sept. 22, Hernandez was involved in a solo accident on the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles. Hernandez and his vehicle were towed early that morning off the 101 to MZ Body Shop in Los Angeles . Hernandez reportedly never returned to the body shop to pick up his vehicle or have it repaired. Eventually, in December, the body shop notified the CHP about the unclaimed, abandoned vehicle on its property. This prompted the CHP to investigate. Shortly thereafter, the insurance fraud was discovered. Because Hernandez has a prior felony conviction and has previously served a term in prison, he faces a maximum penalty of 11 years in state prison and up to $50,000 in fines.

Kentucky Ranks 9th in U.S. for Captive Insurers

Kentucky is among the top 10 states in the nation and the top 25 locations in the world for captive insurers, according to the March 2008 issue of Business Insurance. A captive is a specialized type of insurance company formed to insure the business risks of a corporate parent or a number of similar corporations (such as a trade association). Captive insurers are licensed and regulated by the Kentucky Office of Insurance. During the last three years, Kentucky has updated its captive law, passed a resolution supporting the industry, and hired a full-time coordinator to handle market development and to oversee the regulation and licensing of these entities. The number of licensed captives in the commonwealth grew from 10 to 31 during 2007. According to Business Insurance, this growth places Kentucky ninth in the United States behind Vermont, Hawaii, South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, the District of Columbia and New York. Internationally, Kentucky is tied for 21st place. Bermuda leads the world with 958 captives. Vermont, the top U.S. captive state, is third in the world with 567.

Beazley Group Offering Hotline, Online Attorney Access

Beazley Group plc (BEZ.L), an insurer of employment practices liability (EPL) insurance, has expanded its risk management service, offering a telephone hotline and online access to employment attorneys on how best to minimize client risks. The service is an adjunct to BeazleySource, Beazley's online loss control service. The BeazleySource hotline offers best practice consultation on employee relations issues and the effective management of day-to-day workplace incidents, including termination, discipline, hiring, investigations, crisis management, wage and hour issues, and how to handle litigation threats. In addition, Beazley has added articles on wage and hour compliance to BeazleySource. Wage and hour laws relate to the distinction between salaried and wage-earning employees and are a source of increasing litigation. BeazleySource now includes resources to help employers evaluate their liability under wage and hour laws including checklists to assess compliance. BeazleySource is available at no cost to Beazley's management liability insureds and offers a broad array of services to help companies avoid litigation. Unique features include employment policies and procedures available in both English and Spanish and training on preventing sexual harassment designed to comply with numerous state laws, including some of the most onerous, such as California.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Georgia Counties Receive Aid Request Approval

President George W. Bush has approved a Federal Disaster Declaration for six additional Georgia counties that Gov. Perdue requested aid for following the tornadoes and severe thunderstorms that hit Georgia a weekend ago. The Federal Disaster Declaration follows one issued for Fulton County on Thursday. This means that individual assistance is now available to disaster victims in six other counties in addition to the original declaration for Fulton County. This list now includes Bartow, Burke, DeKalb, Floyd, Jefferson, and Polk counties. The President has also designated that Burke, Fulton and Jefferson counties will all be able to receive federal funds to help offset 75 percent the cost of the initial emergency response, debris removal and restoration of damaged public facilities. Other areas of the state damaged by the storms are still under review. For the counties receiving individual assistance, aid can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also will be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance. Residents and business owners in Fulton County who sustained losses can begin applying for assistance by registering online at http://www.fema.gov/ or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (local time) Monday through Sunday.

N.Y. Woman Arrested in Burned Car Scheme

A Cheektowaga, New York woman was arrested recently for reportedly having her car burned after being told that it “would never be the same” because of an accident, the New York State Insurance Department reported. Michelle Hrichan, 39, was charged with insurance fraud and falsely reporting an incident. She was arrested by Hamburg police, assisted by Investigator David Hahn of the Department’s Frauds Bureau. Hrichan allegedly gave $100 to a friend to burn the car after he told her it “would never be the same” after an accident. She reported the car stolen in October 2006 to Hamburg police and State Farm Insurance. The car was later recovered on a Buffalo street where it had been burned. Hrichan was arraigned in Hamburg Town Court and released on her own recognizance pending a hearing. If convicted, Hrichan could face up to seven years in prison. Arson charges are also pending against her and two others.

N.Y. Man Guilty in Workers' Comp Scheme

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced the guilty plea of a Rome corrections officer who reportedly attempted to obtain more than $2,000 in workers' compensation benefits by submitting false medical leave forms with the alleged forged signature of a doctor. Robert Centore, 42, of Durhamville, was a corrections officer at Rome’s Mohawk Correctional Facility. He pleaded guilty before Judge John Gannon in Rome City Court to Attempted Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the 1st Degree, a misdemeanor. As part of the plea, Centore resigned from his position and agreed to not seek employment with any law enforcement agency in New York state. He was under suspension since his arrest Jan. 21. According to the charges, on March 20 and 29 of last year, Centore filed two medical leave forms claiming he was injured on the job and unable to work from Feb. 16 to March 5. The leave forms allegedly had the forged signature of a doctor, who, as uncovered during the investigation, did not diagnose Centore or sign the forms. By filing the forms, Centore sought $2,036.44 in wage replacement benefits through workers' comp insurance that he was not entitled to receive. Centore’s claim was discovered to be untrue before any benefits were paid.

California Notes Decrease for Allstate Auto Customers

California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced a 15.9 percent decrease in auto insurance rates for customers of Allstate Insurance Company and Allstate Indemnity Company (Allstate). This $244,672,212 reduction culminates months of negotiations and an administrative hearing, which began with Allstate requesting no change to their auto insurance rates, and mirrors reductions made by other, major auto insurers. The average annual savings per auto is approximately $124. This decision is effective April 14, 2008. The administrative law judge agreed with the California Department of Insurance (CDI) claim that Allstate's rates should be reduced significantly because they were overly excessive to begin with. Many insurers in California have significantly lowered auto insurance rates for their policyholders. In 2007, Californians saved more than $700 million through reduced auto insurance rates. CDI maintains that Allstate should be held to the same standard as other auto insurers, based on data submitted to the department. In October 2007, Commissioner Poizner approved $100 million is reduced auto insurance rates for AAA of Northern California. In July 2007, he approved a $65.8 million reduction for GEICO customers. Allstate Indemnity Company is the fifth largest auto insurer in California; Allstate Insurance Company is ranked ninth. Collectively, they earned $1.7 billion in auto premiums for insuring approximately 2 million vehicles in 2007. Allstate has nearly 9 percent of California's auto insurance market.

IRS to Help Some Illinois Flood Victims

Various forms of disaster tax relief may be available to residents and business in Iroquois and Livingston counties in Illinois. Those who suffered losses in the severe storms and flooding between Jan. 7 and March 14 can elect to deduct those losses on their tax returns for 2007 rather than wait to deduct the losses on their 2008 returns. The IRS will postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area until May 6. The postponement applies to return filing, tax payment and certain other time-sensitive acts otherwise due between Jan. 7 and May 6. In addition, the IRS will waive failure to deposit penalties for employment and excise deposits due on or after Jan. 7 and on or before Jan. 22, as long as the deposits were made by Jan. 22. The Internal Revenue Service has a Disaster Assistance Hotline 1-866-562-5227 available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (CST). IRS representatives are available to help those affected by the floods deduct their storm-related losses. If the taxpayer already filed their 2007 federal income tax return, a copy of that return will likely be necessary when calling the IRS hotline for assistance.

Midland Co. Shareholders Back Deal with Munich Re

The Midland Company, a provider of specialty insurance products and services, announced that at the Company's special meeting of shareholders the shareholders approved the pending merger agreement, providing for the acquisition of Midland by Munich Re through its subsidiary, Munich- American Holding Corporation. Under terms of the agreement, Midland shareholders will receive $65.00 per share in cash. The transaction is expected to close on or about April 3, 2008, after the satisfaction of certain remaining conditions. John Hayden, Midland president and chief executive officer, said that the new relationship with Munich Re represents a great opportunity for Midland.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Florida OIR Files Complaint Against American General

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty announced that the Office of Insurance Regulation (Office) has filed an administrative complaint against the American General Life Insurance Co. (American General) seeking to suspend or revoke its certificate of authority to write insurance policies in Florida and requiring the company to cease and desist from unfair trade practices as defined in the Freedom to Travel Act, Section 626.9541(1)(dd), Florida Statutes. The complaint specifically cites multiple counts of American General reportedly refusing to provide policies or limiting the amount, extent or kind of life insurance based solely on the individual's future lawful travel plans. The most high-profile incident involved U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, (D-FL), who in 2005 submitted a life insurance application to American General seeking to increase her current life insurance policy. She had reportedly indicated on her application that she had future plans for international travel. While Wasserman Schultz did not address specifics in the application, American General later called and spoke with her husband who indicated that there was a possibility that she may plan future travel to Israel. This is the first time the Office has sought to suspend or revoke a life insurance company's license for violating the Freedom to Travel Act.

Ohio Fines Company for Improper Info Disposal

Ohio Department of Insurance Director Mary Jo Hudson announced that the Department has ordered Rampage Marketing Services Inc. of Highland Heights, Ohio to pay nearly $15, 000 in fines, administrative costs and restitution for improperly disposing of client information. A Department investigation reportedly revealed that in August 2007, Rampage Marketing Services Inc., a licensed resident insurance agency, dumped 14 boxes of client insurance files into a dumpster. The files reportedly contained thousands of documents containing sensitive and personal data belonging to clients and insurance agents, such as names, social security numbers, dates of birth, personal medical information and personal financial data. An insurance agent with Continental Western Insurance noticed the boxes in the dumpster, secured them and sent them to the Ohio Department of Insurance for review. The dumpster was utilized by several different businesses in the area. The Department believes the actions of the insurance agent prevented any personal data from being stolen. The Department has ordered Rampage Marketing to pay a $10,000 fine and $2,000 in administrative costs. They must also pay Continental Western Insurance nearly $1,200, the cost to recover, secure and transport the abandoned data to the Department of Insurance. Rampage Marketing will be required to submit proof to the Department in 45 days that they paid Continental Western Insurance for their services. They must also pay the fine and administrative costs in one year. Failure to do so will result in the revocation of Rampage Marketing’s insurance licenses. The Department’s investigation of the matter determined that no personal information of Rampage Marketing clients was stolen.

Federal Disaster Aid Available in Georgia

The head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal disaster aid has been made available for Georgia to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area struck by severe storms and tornadoes during the period of March 14-16, 2008. FEMA Administrator David Paulison said the President's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Fulton County. Paulison said that FEMA assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide. FEMA said that residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated county can begin applying for assistance tomorrow by registering online at www.fema.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

RLI Transportation Unveils New Auto Coverage

RLI Transportation announced the introduction of a unique, mono-line commercial auto coverage. The underwriting focus that reportedly makes RLI Transportation successful is at work with this niche coverage. The Driver Training School coverage is admitted in all states except Alaska, Hawaii, La. and Mass. Minimum premiums start at $10,000. Businesses engaged in racing training or emergency response personnel are not eligible.

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Adds Healthcare Risk Solutions

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. announced the acquisition of Healthcare Risk Solutions LLC headquartered in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Founded in 2002, Healthcare Risk Solutions LLC is a property/casualty retail insurance broker providing professional liability insurance products, associated risk mitigation consulting services and specialized program management exclusively to the medical community in the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States. They specialize in insurance products for all healthcare providers. William Carey, Edmund Lynch and their associates will continue to operate from their Fort Washington office, with a satellite location in each of Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey, under the direction of Douglas Brown, Northeast regional manager of Gallagher's property/casualty brokerage operations.

Belmont Partners Hosts Webinar March 27

Belmont Partners LLC announced the hosting of their March 27, 2008, Alternative Public Strategies webinar entitled, Directors and Officers Insurance De-Mystified. Do You Know What You Need to Know About D&O? As the aftermath of the Bear Stearns collapse illustrates, shareholder anger can be a potent force. Often, corporate indemnity insurance disappears once a corporation becomes insolvent or declares bankruptcy. Directors and Officers Insurance (D&O) may be a directors or an officers last line of defense. The March 27 Alternative Public Strategies live, interactive D&O webinar will deliver practical information, tools, and guidelines for negotiating and placing D&O Insurance. This insurance protects and shields a companys directors and officers from loss. Those who seek D&O insurance protection need to know what this coverage provides and what it does not protect against. A panel of insurance and legal experts will replace the myth with a reliable, working knowledge of the unique and subtle contractual distinctions of a D&O insurance policy. David Schaefer, a principal of AH&T Insurance and an industry expert on Directors and Officers Insurance, will moderate the live discussions. Joining Schaefer as speakers and panelists will be Jason Wallace, assistant vice president of Navigators Pro; Manish Shah, a director of Carpenter Moore, a NASDAQ Company; and Richard Anslow, a corporate and securities attorney and managing partner of the law firm Anslow & Jaclin. To register, or to find more information on this webinar, visit www.alternativepublicstrategies.com.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

ASPN, Darwin Professional Underwriters Team Up

ASPN (Agency Specialty Product Network Insurance Services, Inc.) has entered into a new marketing relationship with Darwin Professional Underwriters Inc. (Darwin) to heighten awareness of Darwin’s products with independent agents and brokers. Jerry Tegan, president of ASPN, said, “We are extremely excited about our alliance with Darwin. Darwin offers a suite of compelling professional liability and E&O products including managed care E&O, media liability, technology E&O, lawyer’s E&O, hospital professional liability and clinical research E&O coverages. These products are high-quality, competitively designed and priced. All have been developed with input from agents and brokers to ensure that the products reflect the needs of the ultimate client. This alliance is one more way ASPN is helping independent agents and brokers retain and expand business from existing clients, build new client relationships, and bring their servicing capabilities in these specialty niche areas to a whole new level.” Stephen Sills, president of Darwin, adds “Since our founding, Darwin has limited distribution to selected agents and brokers. We are not changing this model, but – through ASPN – we are reaching out to the independent insurance agency system to offer a select group of specialty products that fill a void in the marketplace. We look forward to working with ASPN and in connecting to ASPN’s independent agents and brokers. To ensure that ASPN agents and brokers get the information they need, when they need it, we’ve set up a dedicated toll free number and dedicated email account for ASPN agents and brokers." Call 1-888-587-ASPN (2776) or email: aspn@darwinpro.com.

FEMA Team to Explore Micronesia Damages

Federal Officials announced that The Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) Region IX is sending a Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) Team to the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) to evaluate the severe coastal erosion and storm surge flooding on the islands of Kosrae, Pohnpei and Chuuk from November, 2007 through February, 2008. The assessment team reviews the types of damage or emergency costs incurred by the state, and the impact to critical facilities, such as: public utilities, hospitals, schools, and fire and police departments. They will also look at the affect on individuals and businesses, including the extent of the damage, the number of people displaced, and the threat to health and safety caused by the incident. This unique preliminary damage assessment team-which is also assessing the impact of drought on island agriculture and water table issues--is comprised of personnel from FEMA, FSM and state emergency management agency officials, local officials, the U.S. Small Business Administration, a water specialist from the United States Geological Survey, and an agricultural specialist from the United States Forest Service.

Pennsylvania Notes Settlement With AIG

Acting Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario announced a settlement that requires American International Group Inc., AIG, to pay more than $9 million in penalties and investigative costs for reportedly filing false financial information. View the settlement agreement. The agreement also resolves bid-rigging allegations against the company and requires AIG to implement new compliance measures to ensure accurate reporting and increase the transparency of commission payments to agents and brokers.

Under the terms of this settlement, AIG will:

  • Pay $9.1 million to the state in penalties and investigative costs for financial misreporting;
  • Provide detailed annual reports regarding the company’s reinsurance arrangements;
  • Provide extensive commission disclosure to commercial customers; and
  • Implement business reforms and cooperate in any related investigations.
In February, a former AIG executive and four former Gen Re executives were found guilty in federal court for their part in a transaction related to the financial misreporting that is the subject of the Insurance Department’s actions. In addition to the false reporting, the department’s investigation of AIG focused on improper activity relating to their bid-rigging and commission practices. The department is also currently working with other states to conduct a comprehensive examination of a third area of AIG’s misconduct related to the under-reporting of workers’ compensation premiums. The settlement document is available at www.insurance.state.pa.us. AIG companies provide property/casualty and life insurance products to commercial, institutional and individual customers in addition to providing retirement services, financial services and asset management. The company has numerous Pennsylvania-based insurance subsidiaries for which the state Insurance Department is the primary regulator.

NGM Insurance Rolls Into Massachusetts

The Main Street America Group's NGM Insurance Company (NGM) has two ways for Massachusetts drivers to save money on their auto insurance when "managed competition" is implemented in the commonwealth on April 1, 2008. NGM's new Personal Auto MVP and MVP Auto Elite products are designed to provide the best auto insurance available at a price that fit consumers' budgets. Additionally, NGM announced it has received approval from the Massachusetts Division of Insurance to extend the multi-policy discount available with its new Personal Auto MVP product to commonwealth residences insured under the Massachusetts Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) plan. The account credit can potentially reduce a policy tier by two, leading to premiums savings of 15 percent to 20 percent. The credit is available for new and renewal auto policies written after April 1, 2008. MVP Auto Elite, NGM's new package of endorsements, provides additional coverage at minimal extra cost. NGM offers three levels of coverage -- platinum, gold and silver -- each with different benefits. MVP Auto Elite Platinum, for example, includes disappearing deductible, in which the collision deductible is reduced over time with renewal; new auto replacement/loan lease gap, which provides new car replacement coverage and coverage for the unpaid amount on a lease or loan in the event of a total loss; and accident forgiveness, in which the driver is not penalized for an "at fault" accident. All three endorsements include 24-hour roadside assistance through NGM's new MSAssist program at no extra charge. Massachusetts consumers interested in learning more about NGM's new auto insurance products should contact their local independent agent.

AIG Agency Auto Drives into New Jersey

AIG Agency Auto, a division of the personal lines property and casualty insurance subsidiaries of American International Group Inc. (AIG), has entered the New Jersey marketplace to offer personal auto insurance to New Jersey drivers through independent insurance agents. Independent agents are currently being appointed throughout New Jersey to write AIG Agency Autos new personal auto program. To learn more about AIG Agency Auto product offerings and services, and how to gain an agent appointment, visit http://www.aig4auto.com.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Former N.Y. Broker Sentenced for Fraud

A 43-year-old former New York insurance broker was sentenced recently to spend weekends in jail for three months for reportedly stealing $9,000 in insurance premiums from 49 people in Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties. Jill M. Morrill of Glens Falls, was sentenced by Saratoga County Court Judge Jerry Scarano after pleading guilty to insurance fraud. She was also ordered to make restitution, some of which has already been paid. Morrill was arrested in July after customers of the South Glens Falls insurance agency where she was employed complained that their insurance policies were being cancelled for not paying premiums. The agency contacted the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department when it learned Morrill had reportedly not turned over cash she was given for premium payments. At Morrill’s sentencing, the owner of Pro-Vu Insurance, the agency where she had been employed, said his company suffered the loss of 20 percent of its business as a result of her actions. The Insurance Department revoked Morrill’s insurance broker’s license in January. Some customers had their car registrations or driver’s licenses suspended because their insurance had lapsed. The cars of several people were towed and one person’s car was impounded when police found it uninsured. In addition, several people were arrested and jailed for driving without insurance. Following her arrest by Saratoga County Sheriffs, Morrill reportedly admitted stealing customer premiums for auto insurance over a 12-month period beginning in July 2006. Two cases involved the theft of business insurance premiums.

South Texas Safety Summit April 9

The Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation (TDI-DWC) will present a regional workplace safety workshop in Edinburg on Wednesday, April 9, at the TEA Educational Service Center located at 1900 West Schunior. The South Texas Safety Summit is one of several Regional Safety Summits offered by TDI-DWC in multiple regions around the state. The cost is $125 per person and includes coffee and snacks. TDI-DWC is hosting this workshop because of the high incidence of nonfatal workplace injuries involving sprains and strains and workplace fatalities resulting from transportation-related incidents. The workshop will offer breakout sessions to help employers and employees prevent these common causes of injury and death. Participants may choose the sessions they wish to attend; each session will be repeated once during the day. Another workshop session will address issues in the construction industry specifically. TDI-DWC instructors will present a 10-hour General Construction course. Each participant completing this entire session will receive an Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) completion card. Texas State Technical College, Waco will provide continuing education credits (.1 CEU per 1 class hour). Register for the High Desert Safety Summit online at http://www.tdi.state.tx.us/wc/safety/employers.html under “Regional Training Seminars”. For more information, contact TDI-DWC at 512-804-4610 or safety.training@tdi.state.tx.us.

AssuranceAmerica Now Writes Auto in Arizona

AssuranceAmerica Corporation, an Atlanta based insurance holding company with operations in the Southeastern & Southwestern United States, announced that AssuranceAmerica Insurance Company wrote its first auto insurance policy in the state of Arizona. While its insurance company or managing general agency (MGA) is licensed to write in 14 states, Arizona becomes the eighth state in which AssuranceAmerica actually conducts business. In announcing its newly initiated sales effort in Arizona, Lawrence (Bud) Stumbaugh, president and CEO of AssuranceAmerica Corporation, the parent holding company of its insurance carrier and MGA, said "Arizona is attractive because it is the seventh fastest growing state in the nation and a top market for nonstandard auto insurance. According to National Auto Insurance Report, Arizona has a history of ten consecutive years of generating profits in personal lines auto insurance with average underwriting profits exceeding 10% the past 3 reported years. It is the 15th largest auto insurance market with over $3.4 billion in annual gross written premium. And, obviously, it also adds to our geographic diversity. We are happy to announce our first policy, and even more pleased that we actually added several policyholders in our first week of business in Arizona." AssuranceAmerica focuses on the specialty automobile insurance marketplace, primarily in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arizona. Its principal operating subsidiaries are TrustWay Insurance Agencies, LLC ("Agency"), which sells personal automobile insurance policies through its 50 retail agencies, AssuranceAmerica Managing General Agency LLC ("MGA"), which markets the company's insurance products through over 1,800 participating independent agencies, and AssuranceAmerica Insurance Company.

Kentucky Victims Can Appeal Disaster Rulings

People who have applied for a federal disaster housing assistance grant to help cover costs from the Feb. 5-6 Kentucky storms shouldn't despair if the first response they receive is negative. Every applicant has the right to appeal and, depending on the circumstances, may be able to reverse the initial ruling, said disaster recovery officials.

Typical reasons for a denial because of incomplete information are that the applicant did not:

  • Provide proof that the damaged property was the primary residence at the time of the disaster;
  • Provide evidence of identity;
  • Provide documentation of the disaster damage;
  • Provide proof of ownership of the damaged property;
  • Sign documents.

Other reasons FEMA might send a denial letter that may be appealed are that the damages and losses are covered by insurance; that the applicant has not completed and returned the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan application; or that the damages were too small to qualify for assistance. If an applicant receives an award but believes the amount to be too low, an appeal for a higher award can be submitted with documentation to support the increased cost. Appeals must be made within 60 days of a denial letter. Applicants or someone they designate to act on their behalf must explain in writing why they believe the initial response was wrong and provide any new or additional information and documents that support the appeal.

Wash. Disaster Aid Tops $72.5 Million

More than $72.5 million in disaster assistance has now been approved to help Washingtonians recover from the December 2007 storms, according to officials with Washington Emergency Management Division (WA-EMD), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Individuals Assistance programs (IA) are to help individuals and families affected by the storms and flooding. Qualifying individuals may receive funds to cover disaster-related costs such as home repairs, temporary housing and personal property losses. Ten counties were designated for IA. SBA low-interest disaster loans are provided for individuals and businesses in counties designated for IA who qualify. SBA loans help homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and private non-profit organizations fund repairs or rebuilding efforts, and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. Public Assistance programs (PA) are for infrastructure to help State and local governments, federally recognized tribes, and non-profit agencies providing essential services. These entities can be reimbursed for disaster-related costs for emergency response, debris removal and repair to roads, utilities, public buildings, parks and facilities. Twelve counties were designated for PA. Under the presidential disaster declaration, FEMA's PA program pays 75 percent of eligible costs, while the state of Washington and the local applicants share the remaining 25 percent. So far, 1,320 Project Worksheets have been received. Of these, 909 have been obligated, or 60.2% of the total.

Centene Corp. to Purchase Celtic Group

Centene Corporation has executed definitive agreements to acquire Celtic Group Inc., the parent company of Celtic Insurance Company ("Celtic"). Pending regulatory approval, the acquisition is expected to close in the third quarter of 2008. Celtic, a privately-owned nationwide health insurance carrier based in Chicago, Illinois, provides health insurance to individual customers and their families. The purchase price for the transaction is $80 million, subject to certain transaction adjustments, and will be funded through borrowings under Centene's existing $300 million credit facility. Celtic will continue to operate under its current brand and the operations will remain at its Chicago headquarters.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Indiana Residents Have 2 Weeks Left to Apply for Aid

Indiana residents and business owners in the 21 counties included in the presidential disaster declaration have until March 31 to register for disaster assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Eligible residents and business owners who sustained damage from storms and flooding that began during the period Jan. 7 and continuing, should register for disaster assistance immediately, said officials from FEMA and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS). Loan applications to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for disaster-related losses to real and personal property also must be submitted by March 31.

Federal and state disaster recovery officials urge eligible residents who have not done so to apply as soon as possible by calling the toll-free registration number at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), or, for the speech or hearing impaired, TTY 1-800-462-7585. Individuals also may register for disaster assistance at the FEMA website www.fema.gov.

Applicants who have questions about the disaster assistance programs or questions about the status of their previously filed applications should continue to use FEMA's toll-free Helpline at 1-800-621-3362.

To date, more than 2,400 Indiana residents have applied for disaster assistance. The total disaster funds approved for individuals affected by the disaster now tops $12 million, which includes approximately $6 million in low-interest SBA disaster loans for individuals and businesses.

Study Says Michigan Comp Claims Costs Low

Workers compensation costs per claim in Michigan were lower than typical among 14 states, according to a new study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI). The study by the Cambridge, Mass.-based WCRI found that lower-than-typical payments per claim for medical care of injured workers were a major factor in the lower costs per claim in Michigan.

The average medical payment per claim in Michigan was the lowest among the 14 study states, 31 percent lower than the median for injuries arising in 2003 with experience through the first quarter of 2006.
Payments per claim for lost wages, known as indemnity benefits, with more than seven days of lost time were 19 percent lower in Michigan than the 14-state median for 2003/2006 claims.

This was due to two factors, according to WCRI. First, despite the fact that Michigan is a wage-loss benefit system, the duration of temporary disability in Michigan was 4 to 15 weeks shorter than in the three other wage-loss states in the study (Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania).

Secondly, some workers received lower benefits and other workers received higher benefits under the Michigan benefit structure than they would have under a typical benefit structure.

A factor that contributed to lower indemnity benefits per claim was the benefit structure in Michigan, which bases weekly benefits on 80 percent of the workers after-tax (spendable) earnings, rather than on the more typical two-thirds of the workers average weekly wage. Also, the statutory weekly benefit maximum in Michigan is set at 90 percent of the statewide average weekly wage, rather than the more typical 100 percent.

When compared with the benefit structure common in most study states, about 16 percent of workers (the lowest paid workers) get higher weekly benefits under the spendable earnings approach in Michigan. Some 49 percent of workers get weekly benefits that are within 5 percent of the typical benefit approach; 18 percent get 5-10 percent lower weekly benefits due to the spendable earnings approach; and 17 percent get 10 percent lower weekly benefits due to the lower maximum temporary disability benefit rate.

The study, CompScope Benchmarks for Michigan, 8th Edition, provides a comparison of the workers comp systems in Michigan and 13 other states on key performance measures such as benefit payments and costs per claim, timeliness of payments, and defense attorney involvement by analyzing a similar group of claims and adjusting for interstate differences in industry mix, wage levels, and injury type.

The other states in the study were Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

Overall, the study showed that growth in total costs per claim in Michigan was 6 percent in the most recent study year, following two years of little change.

Total costs per claim with more than seven days of lost time in Michigan grew 6-8 percent per year over most of the study period. Growth averaged 6 percent per year over the most recent two years, the product of three main factors: (1) rapid growth of 9 percent per year in medical payments per claim; (2) little change in indemnity benefits per claim (less than 3 percent per year on average); and (3) 8 percent per year growth in benefit delivery expenses per claim.

Growth in medical-legal expenses per claim accelerated through much of the study period, from 4 percent in 2002/2003 to 6 percent in 2003/2004 and 11 percent in 2004/2005. This may be related to the aftermath of a number of recent court decisions surrounding the definition of disability and right to continuing wage-loss benefits, WCRI noted.

WCRI reported that injury reporting time in Michigan was the slowest among the 14 states, resulting in a somewhat longer time from injury to first indemnity payment. However, the speed of initial payments once the payor received notice of injury was faster in Michigan than in most study states.

The percentage of claims paid within 21 days of injury in Michigan improved, rising by about 1 point per year from 2002/2003 to 2005/2006. The major contributing factor was an increase of 5 points overall in the percentage of claims paid within 14 days of payor notice over the three most recent years.

Progressive Hits Road with RV Coverage in New Jersey

Thanks to RV insurer, Progressive, New Jerseys RVers can be better protected when navigating the open road. Progressive has begun selling RV insurance in the Garden State.

Progressives specialized RV insurance includes:

  • Total Loss Replacement Replacement of your RV with a new model of similar make and quality if yours is stolen or totaled (available on newer RVs);
  • Emergency Vacation Expense If your RV is damaged during a trip, you can receive up to $2,000 for lodging and transportation;
  • 24-hour Roadside Assistance Progressive will cover the cost to hook up and tow your RV to the nearest qualified repair facility, not just the local gas station; and
  • Full-Timers Package Homeowner-like coverage if you use your RV as a primary residence.

New RV discounts and benefits available include:

  • Defensive Driver Discount Complete a state-sponsored defensive driver course and receive a 10 percent discount on Bodily Injury/Property Damage, Collision and Personal Injury Protection coverages.
  • Anti-Theft Device Discount Have a passive anti-theft device, like a cut-off switch or delayed ignition system, installed on your RV? You can receive a discount of up to 25 percent on Comprehensive coverage.
  • Multi-Policy Discount Receive a discount of 5 percent on your RV policy if you have another Progressive policy including auto, motorcycle and boat.
  • Disappearing Deductibles A deductible decrease of 25 percent every year claim free.

For more information, go to www.rv.progressive.com.

Aid Available for Kentucky Farmers

Kentucky farmers in 58 counties who sustained losses to their farm dwellings, machinery and other farm structures related to the February tornadoes, storms and flooding may, if eligible, receive financial assistance, including low-interest emergency loans, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA) to help them restore agricultural operations. People in 15 Kentucky counties became eligible to be considered for various disaster assistance programs of the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and others. The 15 counties now eligible for individual assistance through FEMA programs are Allen, Bath, Christian, Fayette, Hardin, Harrison, Hart, Hopkins, Meade, Mercer, Monroe, Muhlenberg, Nicholas, Shelby and Spencer. Farmers in these counties may also apply to the SBA for long term low interest loans for storm-related damage to their personal residence. Disaster farm loss assistance in those counties, as well as all counties contiguous to them, is managed by FSA.

Farmers residing in the following contiguous counties who sustained storm-related losses are also eligible to be considered for FSA emergency help: Anderson, Barren, Bourbon, Boyle, Breckinridge, Bullitt, Butler, Caldwell, Clark, Cumberland, Edmonson, Garrard, Grayson, Green, Jefferson, Jessamine, Larue, Logan, Madison, McLean, Metcalfe, Nelson, Ohio, Scott, Simpson, Todd, Trigg, Warren, Washington, Woodford, Bracken, Crittenden, Fleming, Franklin, Grant, Henry, Menifee, Montgomery, Oldham, Pendleton, Robertson, Rowan and Webster.

FSA may make emergency loans to farmers and ranchers (owners or tenants) who were operating and managing a farm or ranch at the time of the disaster. These loans are limited to the amount necessary to compensate for actual losses to essential property and/or production capacity. Farmers and ranchers may also apply for cost-sharing grants for emergency conservation programs such as debris removal from crop/pasture lands, repairs to land/water conservation structures, and permanent fencing. Further information is available from FSA. Farmers interested in applying for assistance should contact their local FSA county office.

Customer Respect Group Looks at Auto Insurers

The Customer Respect Group, an international research and consulting firm that focuses on how corporations treat their online customers, has released findings from its First Quarter 2008 Online Customer Respect Study of Auto Insurance Industry Web sites. The study evaluated the Web sites of a representative sample of automobile insurers. A directly comparable Customer Respect Index (CRI) is provided for each company. This is a qualitative and quantitative in-depth analysis and independent measure of a customers experience when interacting via the Internet. The average CRI score for the industry was 5.5 on a 10-point scale. This represented a slight improvement on the industrys 2007 showing, and industry progression, although slow, is visible. The industry is about average overall and keeping pace with improvements made in other industries.

The top companies in the study were:

Auto Insurance Customer Respect Index Table
Progressive Casualty 7.5
GEICO 6.9
Liberty Mutual 6.5
Nationwide 6.4
MetLife Auto & Home 6.3

A full Scorecard is available from The Customer Respect Group at (978) 380.6128.