Floirda Insurance Home, Auto, Business, Health Insurance blogs

23Oct/120

Lawmakers move forward with sweeping Florida property insurance changes

By Janet Zink,

 

TALLAHASSEE — Sweeping property insurance reform bills that critics deride as a gift to the industry are getting blessed by Florida lawmakers.

A Senate proposal passed its final committee Tuesday morning and is headed for a floor vote.

Later in the day, a similar House measure sailed through its first committee hearing.

Among other things, the Senate bill would free insurance companies from a requirement to offer comprehensive sinkhole insurance. Opponents argue that means that no private insurers would offer sinkhole coverage, so the bill requires state-run Citizens Property Insurance to offer it.

That didn't sit well with Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami.

"We are going to have a full-blown disaster one day," she said. "This is simply taking all of the people who have sinkhole coverage in their community and putting them in Citizens. Then in another bill we're raising the cost of Citizens."

Margolis called it the most anticonsumer bill offered up by the Legislature.

But Garrett Richter, R-Naples, the sponsor of SB408, said the point is to make Florida more appealing to private insurers, who say they can't charge high enough premiums to cover potential losses and they can't compete with Citizens' low rates.

"The ultimate goal of this bill is to increase competition, to attract underwriters into the Florida market, to attract capital to Florida, to reduce fraud," he said.

Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said the growth of Citizens, which has 1.3 million policyholders, is potentially the "biggest single financial crisis facing this state."

"If we ever have a major storm, we are in deep trouble," he said.

Citizens officials have warned their premiums aren't high enough to cover all their payouts in the case of a huge hurricane or series of storms. That means all insurance policyholders, including those that aren't in Citizens, would have to pick up the tab.

To underscore that fact, Alexander introduced an amendment to SB408 that would change the name of the state-run insurer to the Taxpayer Funded Property Insurance Corporation. The measure passed, though it's not likely to survive a vote of the full Senate.

John Thompson, a Spring Hill resident, panned the entire bill, saying homeowners had no voice in developing the legislation. Private insurers, he said, are not about to go under. Thompson said his homeowners policy was canceled by four private insurers, forcing him into Citizens, even though hurricanes and sinkholes are not new phenomena in the state.

"This Legislature is condoning cherry-picking. Let them write what they want, when they want and charge what they want," he said, pointing out that State Farm offered to cover his automobile even though it's parked in the garage of a home the company won't cover.

"They should not be knocking on your door, the Florida Legislature, asking for handouts and crying about losing money," he said. "Yes, losing money on a specific market product possibly, but not on the verge of going broke. No way. No how. It's greed."

The bill passed the Senate Rules Committee by a 9-3 vote, with Republicans Anitere Flores, R-Miami and Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, voting with Margolis against it.

The House bill, which also lets private insurers off the hook for sinkholes, passed by a vote of 12-3 in the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee.

Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, cast one of the dissenting votes, saying HB803 would result in a feeding frenzy by insurance companies on Florida policyholders. Reps. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, and Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, also voted against it.

23Oct/120

Sweeping Changes To Florida’s Personal Injury Protection Law Benefit Insurance Companies Not Citizens

Changes to Personal Injury Protection Undermine Protection Of The Injured, Add Burden To Law Enforcement, Open Back Door For Insurance Companies to Be Excluded From Billing Reduction And Guarantee Increased Litigation.

As so many times before when politicians make changes to highly technical and complex laws their lack of understanding can undermine their intent. Due to the complex nature of the PIP law, it's understandable that the average Florida State Legislature would not have a complete working knowledge of how the PIP or No-Fault Law affects citizens, law enforcement, businesses and the courts. However, you need only to look at who are the winners and losers of the new changes to gain perspective on the motivation of the new rules. These changes were set in motion under the guise of reducing / preventing insurance fraud – a rampant problem throughout Florida.

After close examination of the new law it becomes obvious the new rules are a boon to Florida insurance companies. The new PIP rules will make it more difficult for people who have been injured on Florida's roadways to receive their claims benefits in good faith, and allow insurance companies a loophole for keeping rates high. The new rules will also have the unintended effect of increasing both litigation and administrative burden on law enforcement. Whether or not any of the new changes will actually reduce insurance fraud remains to be seen. Below I have outlined the ways the new PIP laws will affect all parties with a stake in Florida's No-Fault laws.

Effects Of The New Personal Injury Protection (No Fault) Law
Passed this Past Legislative Session

    1. Effect on Insurance Companies:
      The new statute calls for 10% reduction in insurance company billing for PIP benefits in October 2012 and 25% reduction in billing for PIP benefits in 2014 but the insurance companies have right to petition for exclusion from the above. Therefore, the effect on insurance companies billing reduction for citizens of Florida is unlikely.

 

    1. Effect on Law Enforcement
      A long form accident report must now be done in every accident involving death, injury, pain complaints, if wrecker is required or if collision involves a commercial vehicle. Therefore, law enforcement has a much greater burden to comply with this new law and its requirements.

 

    1. Effect on Fraudulent Claims
      This new statute allows a penalty for false applications in insurance policies and benefits. This portion of the statute reiterates laws already in effect on insurance fraud.

 

    1. Effect on Florida Citizens
      The ten thousand dollars ($10,000) personal injury benefits are restricted to a showing by a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathic medicine, dentist, physicians assistant or registered nurse practitioner that the auto accident injuries constitute a need for Immediate Medical Attention such that absence of medical care would result in:

        1. Serious jeopardy to health
        1. Serious impairment of bodily functions or
        1. Serious dysfunction of bodily organ or parts

      This finding of Emergency Medical Condition “MUST” be made within 14 days of date of accident. If NO finding of Emergency Medical Condition is made during the fourteen days after a collision, personal injury benefits allowed are restricted to twenty five hundred dollars ($2,500). If no treatment is received within fourteen days (14) then NO personal injury benefits need to be paid.

 

    1. Effect on Lawyers
      The wording of this new statute lends itself to a sharp increase of litigation as to wrongful denial of personal injury benefits by insurance companies. Lawyers may charge for time spent litigating these cases but can no longer seek a multiplier of fees through the judges. In addition to more litigation on personal injury benefit denials, this new statute is worded so that numerous constitutional challenges will be forthcoming.

 

    1. Effect on Chiropractors, Massage Therapist and Acupuncturist
      Massage and acupuncture are eliminated from personal injury benefits. Chiropractic Physicians can not render an opinion as to whether their patient has an Emergency Medical Condition qualifying their patient for the full personal injury benefits ($10,000) for treatment.

Effective Date:
Portions of this statute go into effect earlier but a majority of the new PIP law begins 1/1/2013. Note that an insurance company is NOT required to amend its policy or notify its insured for this new law to take effect.

Summary:

WINNERS: The insurance companies stand to collect fees and provide far less benefits.

LOSERS: Citizens of Florida will receive less benefits on their automobile insurance policy if they are injured in an auto collision.

 

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9Oct/120

Are poor folks targeted with higher insurance rates?

If you have a blue-collar job or no college degree, you could be paying more for auto insurance than someone with the same car and driving record who is a professional or has a degree.

That's the finding of a recent Consumer Federation of America study that examined quotes in 15 cities from the four largest auto insurers in the country and Florida — State Farm, Allstate, Progressive, and GEICO.

The Consumer Federation found, among other things, insurers quote wildly different rates for similar, hypothetical drivers because of factors that can unfairly target those with less money. For instance, in Miami, an insurer quoted one person $1,759 a year and another who is similar $3,457. Two other insurers quoted a woman in Miami $2,822 and $2,203 and a man, $1,978 and $2,430, respectively.

 

The Sun Sentinel found a similar trend when obtaining 16 online quotes for two hypothetical customers in Fort Lauderdale with exactly the same profile, including the same age and car, with the only difference being either the driver's occupation, education level or whether they are a homeowner. The quotes, which covered 6-month policies, were all higher for the person whose income would likely be lower based on the factor tested. The difference ranged from being $20, or 2 percent, higher for a secretary versus an executive to a whopping $489, or 114 percent, higher for someone without a high school degree versus someone with a doctorate.

State Farm and Allstate, two of the four biggest auto insurers, were not included in the survey because their online quoting form requires providing a real person's information. Obtaining quotes using a real person's information generated a similar result.

Regulators discourage insurers from using income to set rates, but other factors can be used as surrogates or proxies, according to a Florida Office of Insurance Regulation report in 2007.

"While the use of race as a rating factor was outlawed in Florida … occupation and education has emerged in the rating and underwriting of auto insurance and appear to be highly correlated to race and income-level," according to the report.

Hilary Shelton, the NAACP's senior vice president for advocacy, said home ownership is also correlated. About 40 percent of racial and ethnic minorities own homes, while the rate is about 70 percent for whites, Shelton said.

"It puts many struggling Americans in a very disadvantaged position. It [hurts] those people who can least afford it," he said. "Clearly, it's discriminatory…Things like your income, marital status and job title should have absolutely nothing to do with how much money one is charged."

Insurers don't discriminate based on criteria such as race, religion and gender and they use only factors that reveal how likely you are to get in an accident, said Bob Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group.

That ensures they're charging each person as close to the right price as possible, so consumers who are less likely to get in accidents won't have to pay as much as people who are more likely, Hartwig said. "The CFA seems to completely ignore the fact that people can shop for insurance and [right now auto] insurers are hungry for your business," he said.

Christine Tasher, GEICO's public relations director, said the insurer's rates are "very competitive" in Florida. She added: "Hypothetical quotes really are just that … hypothetical."

So why do insurers ask for the information when providing quotes? Insurance Information Institute Spokeswoman Lynne McChristian said it's because they "have found there is a statistical correlation between [factors such as] occupation and losses," but they don't study why that is.

Bob Hunter, the Consumer Federation's director of insurance, said when you combine one factor, such as working as a cashier, with others, such as renting instead of owning, it can be a double-whammy on your premium. "Every one of the factors can have an adverse impact…When you use all eight of them it's a huge adverse" impact.

Consumer advocates say using factors that indicate one's income is just as bad as using credit scores, which some states have banned for similar reasons. They say the factors used put poor people at a greater disadvantage than they already are, which contributes to more drivers being uninsured.

"If they were used by lenders, people would be in the street complaining and regulators would be cracking down," said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation. "Insurers have slowly been using more and more factors related to socio-economics as opposed to whether you're a good driver or not."

A new tool some insurers offer that gives discounts based on how policyholders actually drive — called pay-as-you-drive or usage-based programs — may reduce the impact of socio-economic factors on rates. Two of Florida's largest insurers started offering the program: Progressive and recently, State Farm.

9Oct/120

Is your car too small to be safe?

By Matt Brownell, Insure.com

New data suggest that the biggest menaces on the road aren't oversized SUVs, but tiny cars like the Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent. Several small cars are among the 10 makes and models found to be the most dangerous to other drivers on the road, but the data may not be as disturbing to small-car owners as it initially appears.

The new data come from "Insurance losses by make and model," a new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute. The institutes analyzed claims data for model years 2009 through 2011 to determine which cars are involved in the most insurance claims.

Categories considered by the organizations include personal injury protection (injury to drivers and their passengers), bodily injury liability (injuries to other cars' drivers and their passengers) and collisions. Models were ranked by how frequently they were involved in such claims.

The Chevy Silverado 2500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee rank among safest to their own drivers and passengers. (The vehicles with the lowest level of PIP claims are the Porsche 911 2-door and Chevrolet Corvette 2-door. The Porsche, for example, is 68 percent less likely to have a PIP claim than the average vehicle. Isn't that odd? See sidebar at left.) The rest of the top 10 also are larger cars.

By contrast, the Toyota Yaris, Suzuki SX4, Chevrolet Aveo and other small or mini sized cars the bulk of the top 10 list of vehicles with the most claims for personal injury claims.

So word to the wise: The bigger the car, the less likely you are to get injured while driving it.

"The smaller the vehicle you're in, the more likely you are to hit something larger than you," explains Matt Moore, vice president of the Highway Loss Data Institute. "And if you do, you're more likely to be injured."

More trouble with small cars

What's not easily explained, though, is that smaller cars (like the Rio and Accent) likewise dominate the "bodily injury liability" category. Seven of the 10 models with the highest likelihood of causing injury to passengers in another vehicle are small or mini sized.

So if the smaller car in a collision is more likely to get the worst of things, why do the data suggest the opposite -- that you're sometimes more likely to hurt someone when you're behind the wheel of a little car?

One possibility is simply that people are using smaller cars differently than they do larger ones. For instance, people may tend to drive faster in small cars. Or, it may be the drivers themselves: Small cars tend to be chosen by younger, inexperienced drivers who will have high crash rates no matter what car they're in.

Moore suggests another possibility: "Bodily injury pays for injuries caused to pedestrians as well as [people in] vehicles," he notes. "The smaller the car is, the more likely the vehicle is owned and operated in an urban area."

And in urban areas, you're more likely to be dealing with pedestrians. Compare car insurance rates for urban and rural areas, and you'll likely see this increased danger reflected in the premiums (among other urban risk factors).

One thing is for sure: The cars most likely to do damage to someone else's vehicle or property tend to be larger pickups and SUVs, as you might expect. They have the highest levels of property damage liability claims. The top offenders are the Dodge Ram, Chevrolet Tahoe and Toyota Tundra.

8Oct/120

How to Get Cheap Auto Insurance in Florida

Instructions

 

    • 1

      First, know the basics about Florida Auto Insurance...
      Knowing the basic requirements of Florida auto insurance is crucial. You do not want to buy more than you need or choose the wrong type of policy. Auto insurance in Florida requires 10,000 in PIP and PDL auto insurance at all times.
      The resource section below has a link to an additional Ehow article on the required insurance in Florida.

    • 2

      Next, do an online comparison to find cheap auto insurance in Florida...
      Once you have basic knowledge on what type of company you are looking for you should do an online comparison of cheap auto insurance options in Florida. Think of using a site like Progressive that will allow you to enter your information once and still give you a comparison of several companies. Many times insurance companies will offer better rates online because they know you can easily compare other offers. Once you have narrowed down your selection move on to the next step for additional savings.

    • 3

      Then, look for employee or membership discounts on auto insurance in Florida...
      Now that you have the names of a few auto insurance companies in Florida that fit your budget you can look for additional discounts. Do an online search using the insurance company name and the search term member discounts. You will find there may be some organization discounts. If you are a member of an organization you can take advantage of this. Check with your employer to see if they have a group rate or discount with any of the companies on your list. If you don't find any contact the auto insurance company directly and ask what discounts they offer. You may find that you are eligible for a discount you were not aware of. This will help make you auto insurance cheaper than expected.

    • 4

      Last, save more on auto insurance in Florida by earning rewards on payments...
      You can use a reward debit card as visa to make your auto insurance payments. Using a debit rewards program will not cost you more because there is not interest or fees involved. This necessary expense will earn you cash back or rewards each time you make a payment. The type of rewards will depend on your debit card reward program.

 

8Oct/120

How Does Homeowners Insurance Work?

  1. The Basics of Homeowners Insurance

    • When you purchased your home, you were required to purchase homeowners insurance in order to receive financing. Understanding this coverage will help you make the most of your policy if you should ever need to make a claim. Homeowners insurance policies are labeled based on how much coverage they offer. The three types of homeowners insurance policies are HO-1, HO-2 and HO-3. HO-1 and HO-2 policies are the more affordable options, but they only insure the property, not the individual's belongings, and they carry many exclusions. Most policies are HO-3 policies because they cover both the house and the belongings it contains.

    Property Protection

    • HO-3 polices are divided into two basic parts: property protection and liability protection. Property protection covers four main items. First, it covers the dwelling itself, which includes your house and any attached structures. Other structures on the property, such as a storage shed, are also covered. Your personal property is another part of this coverage. Some policies will reimburse the actual value of the property, while others will provide the replacement cost if property is damaged, regardless of any depreciation. Some policies will also cover the loss of very valuable items, like jewelry, even if there was no catastrophic event. Finally, if your home is damaged and you cannot live there while it is repaired, your living expenses will be covered under property protection.

    Types of Damage Covered

    • The property portion of the homeowners insurance policy will cover damage caused by storms, ice, snow, fire, theft and vandalism. Damage caused by pipes that burst or other accidental malfunctions within the home are usually covered, provided there is no sign of neglect on the part of the homeowner. Homeowners insurance policies often have a deductible that the homeowner has to pay before coverage is available. Typical policies do not cover damage caused by floods, hurricanes and earthquakes. Homeowners who live in areas at risk for these types of damage can add these coverage options for an additional cost.

    Liability Protection

    • The second part of the policy, the liability portion, covers you against claims made by others who are injured on your property. For example, if you are having a party and one of your guests is injured while at your home, the medical bills that the guest has will be covered by your homeowners insurance policy. However, if you neglect your property and someone is injured as a result of your negligence, you will be liable for those injuries.

    Filing a Claim

    • If you suffer a loss that is covered under your insurance policy, you will need to file a claim to receive your money. Your insurance company will then send an adjuster to confirm that the value you stated on the claim is accurate. Having pictures or other records to prove the value of your belongings will help you receive all that you are owed. Once the value of the damaged property has been assessed, you will be offered a settlement amount. You can negotiate this if you feel that it is not sufficient to cover your losses.

4Oct/120

Florida Auto Insurance

By

Florida auto insurance is mandated by the state. This area of the United States is a popular vacation destination and it is a popular place to relocate. Since there is so many people entering this state, car insurance is of utmost importance. More traffic means more risk of higher numbers of car accidents. Insurance policies are designed to help people involved in altercations.

Any vehicles registered in the state of Florida must have an insured driver. The minimum coverage is 10,000 dollars for personal injury protection and 10,000 dollars for property damage liability. This is just the bare bones insurance polices required by the state of Florida. Consumers can choose to purchase more coverage.

Bodily injury liability is not a requirement in this state. Drivers can opt to have this coverage anyway which is always a good idea. You can obtain a vehicle registration without having bodily injury liability but you can expect a significant penalty if you are found liable for an accident in which the other party is injured.

Florida Auto Insurance Cancellations

Remember that it is crucial to keep your car insurance policy up-to-date in the state of Florida. If the policy lapses and you fail to get personal injury protection and property damage liability through another agency, the state's Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend your driver's license and revoke your vehicle's registration and vehicle tag as well.

You can get your license, tag and registration reinstated but it requires you to show proof of current insurance and the department will also charge a reinstatement fee. This can be a time-consuming and costly process so it is very important to keep your car insurance coverage from being canceled in the first place.

Finding Car Insurance in Florida

The process of finding the right policy to suit your needs used to be very cumbersome. However, the Internet offers an innovative way to research various car insurance companies and you can even get quotes and make comparisons in the meantime. Professionals suggest that you get between three and five quotes to compare while shopping for a new Florida car insurance.

4Oct/120

Does Your Homeowners Insurance Cover Natural Disasters?

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Most people buy a new home, get homeowner's insurance, and sit back thinking they are protected in the event of a natural disaster. That is what insurance is for, right? Well, yes, and no. The fine print of your homeowner's insurance is likely to have a list of what is covered, and not a whole lot about what is not covered.

Take flooding, for example. Your policy may state that you are covered from damage by rain. What this means is that you are covered from water falling from the sky. If your roof springs a leak, and you've kept up with proper maintenance, then in theory your roof will be covered when it collapses under the pressure of a big thunderstorm. But if that same storm causes the stream that runs through your back yard to overflow and run into your basement, you are most likely not covered for that damage. But wait, the rain from the sky caused the creek to flood, so it is all rain damage, right? Um. No. Rain, by the insurers standpoint, comes from the sky. Flooding comes from the ground. So you are not covered.

This may seem a bit ridiculous, and maybe it is. But it is the reality we as homeowner's must face. If you do not see it plainly listed on your policy, in writing, then you have to assume it is not covered by your insurance company.

Many people learned the horrible truth of this during Hurricane Katrina. While rain fell from the sky, winds tore off roofs and water flooded houses. Unfortunately, many of the victims had only basic homeowner's insurance, which does not cover flooding or damage caused by high winds. So what these people found was that they had a house that was useless, mortgages to be paid, and no where to go.

In most cases what you will not need will seem obvious. If you live in Kansas, it is probably a safe bet that you can pass on earthquake insurance. If you live on the side of the Rocky Mountains, you can probably safely turn down hurricane insurance. But if there is any questionable situation, you might want to look into added coverage. For example, in California it is probably wise to invest in earthquake insurance. If you live along the southern states you probably should consider hurricane insurance. If your house is in a flood plain, most would suggest you get flood insurance.

The problem with this plan is that insurance companies are all about lessening their risks. If your house is on the beach in the Florida Keys, the insurance company knows it is very likely at some point you will have damage from a hurricane. Unfortunately for you this means your premiums will be very high, as the insurance company, like any business, wants to make money.

The key is to make sure you understand what is and is not covered on your current policy. From there you need to weigh the risks versus the cost and see what added coverage you need to have before a natural disaster strikes.

3Oct/120

Florida Home Insurance – It’s Still Possible to Find Coverage at a Good Price

By Ryan Richardson

 

Florida home insurance is getting more and more difficult to obtain and if you already have it it's getting more expensive. Hurricanes in recent years have driven up the prices that homeowners are paying for their insurance premiums. In some cases a premiums have gone up so much that some people cannot even afford to keep their homes. Many of the big-name insurance companies are not even offering new policies to homeowners.

So what's being done about this? Some concerned citizens have formed a group called H.A.C or Having Affordable Coverage. Here is a quote from their website regarding their mission statement "our mission was to return affordable property insurance without the loss of additional coverage to the homeowners of Florida." In addition to these types of grassroots efforts to combat rising costs for Florida home insurance the state has actually created their own insurance program. The Citizens Property Insurance Corporation is a way for Florida homeowners to get coverage but it is a last resort. This state created insurance program is required by law to charge more than private insurance companies in order to be noncompetitive. So while this helps the problem of not being able to get coverage it does nothing to help the problem of being overcharged for it.

Although a lot of the big-name companies are no longer offering new policies and are jacking up rates on existing policies there are still options available to homeowners in Florida. Some smaller companies have come in to try to fill the void left by the larger companies. These smaller companies are providing Florida home insurance to people who cannot get coverage from the larger companies and they are doing so at more competitive rates. It's getting more difficult to find good coverage at an affordable price in Florida these days but there are still options available to you if you take the time to look for them.

2Oct/120

Florida Homeowners Insurance – Soon or Else it Will be Too Late

By

 

If you are living in an area like Florida where floods, hurricanes or tornados invade frequently, you have to prepare yourself to face the challenges. Life would be devastatingly tough if you are not prepared.

It is sure you cannot fight the forces of nature but you can protect yourself from economic devastation with homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance can be a blessing during natural calamities or in time of need.

Here are some tips to buy an affordable homeowners insurance in the Florida State:

Make a search: To find a reputed and affordable Florida homeowners insurance, you should shop around. You are recommended to contact all local brokers or insurance agents to know the different home insurance policies provided by them. Today, many home insurance companies have their own websites; you can browse the net and request for home insurance quote. After collecting the entire information make a comparative study to get the best deal. If you are not sure of the policies you can take help of a reliable agent.

Only home insurance comparison is not enough, you should perform a home insurance rate comparison as well. However, home insurance rates do not differ a lot but some companies do provide discounts. You can get a cheaper home insurance by using these discounts. Some home insurance companies offer discounts to senior citizens. If your age is more than 62 years then you can avail the discount offer. These discounts help you to save 10-15% per year.

Installing your home with modern equipments like burglar alarms, deck-bolt locks, home video camera, fire alarms, carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector can also fetch you a discount.

But do not over bargain homeowners insurance. Always remember that you are living in an area, which is prone to hurricane. Therefore always keep an eye on the various coverage offered by your local home insurance agents.