Friday, 28 February 2014
Every responsible person carries insurance against all sorts of life's potential catastrophes. We don't think twice about buying health insurance, home insurance, car insurance, life insurance, liability insurance, and it goes on and on.
From a gambler's perspective, these are all sucker bets. Insurance companies make their big bucks by tipping the actuarial odds in their favor so that they can pay off far less in reimbursements than they receive in premiums.
We are willing to richly reward insurance companies in this way because they spread the risks across a large group. The individual pays the extra price to gain security and peace of mind. Which brings us to the two life or death questions now facing our species: Why we are failing to take out an insurance policy against global warming? Can we wise up before it is too late? The risks that we are causing and will suffer from a future environmental catastrophe couldn't be clearer. Atmospheric and oceanic carbon dioxide is rising at an alarming rate. Computer models predict drastic temperature and sea level changes with increasing certainty. The population explosion and the rapid growth in per capita consumption are together befouling our atmosphere and draining irreplaceable supplies of fossil water.
And the effects of global warming are likely already upon us. Year after year of record-setting world mean temperatures. Unprecedented droughts in California. Unprecedented rains in England. Atlanta colder in January than Anchorage. Supposedly once-in-a- hundred-year weather disasters happening every few years.
Perhaps these are all flukes, but should we complacently bet the species on the blind hope that someday we can work out a technological fix. Prevention is much better than cure, especially since there may not be a cure or the cure may be too late to save the day.
We should be taking out an insurance policy. Why aren't we? Why are we the selfish generation that failed to save the earth for our grandchildren and their children. The times they are fast a changing and clearly we are not changing fast enough to keep up with them.
Part of the problem is human nature. Living in a harsh world, our ancestors faced an uphill battle for day-to-day survival and couldn't anticipate or plan for the prospect of a long-term future. Evolution has therefore favored short-term, short-sighted decision-making. It is not within human psychology to be very good at really long-term planning -- especially for things that are difficult to visualize.
Part of the problem is corporate psychology. Executives and shareholders think in terms of quarters, not decades or centuries. The smart short-term profit play is to spend hundreds of millions casting doubt on environmental science, electing science denying politicians who can't see past election day, and propagandizing the public into numb inaction.
The basic pitch is 'do nothing' until we can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are irrevocably ruining our environment. Of course, this is brutal and ruthless cynicism -- by then it will be too late to save ourselves and prevent the environmental catastrophes, famine, war, and pestilence that will inevitably follow. 'Apres moi, le deluge'. Let the grandchildren suffer. We don't wait to develop an illness before taking out health insurance, or an accident for car insurance, or apply for fire insurance after the fire starts. The whole meaning of insurance is that you buy it early and without certainty you will ever need to use it.
The same foresight should inform our approach to global warming insurance. This would take the form of paying the price now for systematically reducing the risk of future catastrophes for our children and their children. This needs to be done immediately -- before we can be absolutely certain how grave are the risks and how far in the future is the tipping point. That's what insurance is all about.
Thursday, 27 February 2014
The long fight to reform Michigan's no-fault auto insurance system might be coming to a head.
Republican leaders laid out a new proposal Thursday that would place a cap on the now-unlimited medical claims and force insurers to their rates for now.
House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, announced the plan, citing the fact Michigan drivers pay some of the highest premiums on car insurance in the country.
"Our families are saying they can no longer afford their auto insurance, they're struggling to pay those bills," Bolger said.
The plan calls for a cap of $10 million on benefits and a reduction in premiums of at least 10 percent for at least the next two years, which would save the average driver about $10 per month.
"The goal of this cap is that it won't impact anyone, today there are only a couple of handfuls of claims that have exceeded 10 million dollars," Bolger said.
Also included in the proposal is an additional $25 per policy charge to cover unfunded Medicaid-related claims.
The Insurance Institute of Michigan has advocated for several of the elements included in the plan but officials wanted to hold off on reacting until they could analyze the proposal.
"We need to address how those costs are in our system and driving up the price because we have to have a product that not only provides benefits but people can afford," said Lori Conarton, communications director with the Insurance Institute of Michigan.
With this latest proposal, Republicans contend it's a compromise to last year's failed attempt.
"Every single opposition whether it was a Republican concern or a Democrat concerned has been addressed in this proposal," Bolger said.
But Josh Hovey, spokesperson with the Coalition Protecting Auto No-Fault, CPAN, argues the plan isn't much of a compromise.
"It's just not going to work, it's not going to work for Michigan drivers, it's not going to work for accident survivors, it's not going to work for healthcare providers," Hovey said.
Reductions in benefits coupled the the Medicaid tax amount to very little real savings for drivers, according to Hovey.
"In the long run we think there's some better proposals, some better policies that could be implemented," he said.
Instead the Coalition would like to see rates stop being based on credit scores and it wants the insurance commissioner given more power to approve rates to ensure fairness.
Wednesday, 26 February 2014
Recently, members of a Florida ring accused of staging fires and floods to make fraudulent home insurance claims were arrested. The suspects are accused of bilking homeowners insurers out of $7 million. Paul Bermingham, executive director of Xchanging Claims Services, a $1 billion business processing, procurement and technology services provider for the global insurance industry , explains why the industry needs to adopt a more holistic approach by incorporating a range of different measures that take advantage of technology and demand cultural and behavioral changes.
· How prevalent is insurance fraud in the U.S. compared to other countries?
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), cases of suspected fraud in the U.S. rose 27 percent from 2010 through 2012, reaching more than 100,000 questionable claims. Fraud costs U.S. property and casualty insurers approximately $30 billion annually. Just look at the recent example that occurred in Miami, Florida in February. Twenty two people were charged in a major home insurance fraud ring totaling about $7.6 million in losses from various insurance companies. At least 17 fake home damage incidents such as fires and floods were staged and false claims were paid out to the fraudsters. This is just one example of many. In 2012, home insurance fraud in the U.S. was the second most popular type of fraud with 17,000 questionable claims made.
In the UK, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) cites that insurance fraud is currently more than a $1.6 billion a year industry with an average of 2,670 fraudulent claims made every week in the UK. The problem is also significant in Singapore as well, with the General Insurance Association of Singapore estimating that 20 percent of all automotive insurance claims paid (about $140 million) were fraudulent. Now, more than ever before, it is crucial for our entire industry – regardless of region – to protect itself and its honest policyholders.
· What affect does fraud have on the industry?
Fraud has a negative effect both on insurance companies and consumers. Insurance companies are all too aware of its ability to grossly erode profit margins, not to mention the hours staff spend on efforts to combat the fraud, and consumers see their premiums rise.
· What are the type five most common types of fraud in the US?
The NICB found that automotive fraud was most prevalent, followed by home, workers’ compensation and employers’ liability, commercial automotive, and commercial general liability.
Insurance companies have taken steps to improve the ability to identify and address fraudulent claims, but these efforts are typically fragmented. Because of the lack of a collective industry approach – most carriers work independently. In relation to technology, insurers sometimes lack the proper data mining system to help identify potential fraud and the business processes to follow up on flagged claims activity. Another major issue prohibiting the discouragement of fraud is consumers’ tolerant attitude toward insurance fraud. And finally, it’s a challenge because insurance lends itself well to many different types of fraud. While the vast majority of fraudulent acts relate to first party fraud (such as is the case with the Florida fraud ring), third party fraud is also quite prevalent.
· Has there been a shift in consumers’ attitudes toward instances of fraud then?
Many consumers are surprisingly tolerant about the idea of defrauding their insurer. A 2008 survey by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud found that one in five adults in the US – that’s around 45 million people – felt that it was acceptable to defraud insurance companies under certain circumstances. Many of this group would probably be horrified to be labeled as ‘fraudsters,’ but yet they still harbor the Robin Hood mentality.
What are insurance companies already doing to try to stem the tide?
As the number of fraudulent claims continues to rise, fraud management has moved higher on the priority list of senior management. Some companies have invested in improving data quality and adopting technology tools, but many still lack the business processes, workforce competencies, and organizational structure needed to act on the insights gained from data analysis. Other companies have worked to enhance their operating model, but have failed to develop a clear strategy of what they hope to achieve.
Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Estimates suggest the total share of home insurance in the general insurance industry is less than 1%
Home insurance, which covers the house and its contents from fire, theft, burglary and other security concerns, is still a segment that has not seen enough takers. The main reason, according to insurance industry executives, is inadequate tax incentives as well as a lack of awareness.
Sanjay Datta, head of underwriting and claims at ICICI Lombard General Insurance, says people’s perception of risk is low and hence many do not want to take home insurance. He adds that the distribution network of home insurance products is not widespread, resulting in low penetration.
Home insurers also provide cover for household appliances including television, washing machine, refrigerator and jewelry or valuables that are kept in the house. In some cases, even pets in the house, at the time of an accident or robbery and are injured in the incident gets a cover. Terrorism and catastrophic incidents are also covered under some products.
Industry estimates suggest the total share of home insurance in the general insurance industry is less than one per cent. The total premiums collected in the segment annually are also estimated to be less than Rs 30 crore.
Non-life insurance companies have been asking for tax incentives to make home insurance more attractive for customers. The general manager of a state-owned general insurance company said customers have expressed their displeasure on not having any financial incentives for purchasing these products.
“Life insurance as a product is primarily purchased by people in India for tax exemptions. Motor insurance is mandatory and hence people buy the product. But home insurance is neither mandatory nor has tax benefits. Hence, very few people opt for it,” he added.
Several service providers have also tied up with banks to provide the cover as soon as a home loan is taken. This cover would be comprehensive and, apart from the basic cover, would also offer loan protection for the insured if s/he is unable to pay the loan.
Insurers had demanded this cover should be made mandatory for all new homes that are purchased. However, the finance ministry was not too keen on making it mandatory, says the chief distribution officer of a mid-size general insurer.
Due to low interest from customers, the premium rates have also stayed flat. The chief executive of a private general insurance company points out that the premium rates have not moved up, since there have not been high claims reported in the segment. “Apart from some affluent individuals who report claims from time-to-time, the overall claim experience has remained low. Therefore, the rates have been flat.”
Premiums for home insurance for a sum assured of Rs 2 lakh could be as low as Rs 800-900, depending on the items in the house that are covered. Even if perils such as fire, theft and all appliances are covered, the premium does not exceed Rs 10,000 on an average.
Monday, 24 February 2014
Dyman & Associates Insurance Group of Companies: Rise of Ride Sharing Could Mean Pricier Auto Insurance for Everyone
That’s what forces pushing new regulations on sharing are suggesting anyway. Ride-sharing services see the situation quite differently, of course.
Regulators aren’t quite sure what to do with so-called “sharing economy” services such as Airbnb, Lyft, and UberX. In many ways, sharing operations are in competition with traditional businesses—hotels in the case of Airbnb, rental cars and car sales when it comes to Lyft, UberX, and other ride-sharing ventures. Yet homeowners and automobile owners who participate tend to see sharing as just that, sharing, not a true business. Sure, there’s some money changing hands digitally in these transactions, and there’s a contractual business agreement at the heart of every organized sharing service provided, but the owners playing along typically view their participation as an occasional, side-gig sort of thing. As such, sharing companies and sharers alike take the stance that authorities shouldn’t regulate these services like a regular business.
Like regulators, insurers aren’t entirely certain what to
make of increasingly popular sharing arrangements. Or more accurately, auto insurers aren’t certain how
to make customers pay for the extra coverage they say is needed in such an
arrangement. “It’s very clear in California: If you drive your car and make
money on it, you need a commercial license,” Pete Moraga, a spokesman for the
Insurance Information Network of California, told the San Francisco Chronicle
earlier this month. “But because it’s so new, insurers don’t ask the question,
which does open the process up to fraud.”
Ride-sharing services typically provide $1 million worth of excess liability coverage for their drivers. But well-publicized accidents and lawsuits have brought up the possibility that such a policy leaves holes in one’s coverage. A Consumer Reports post published earlier this year warned:
excess liability insurance covers passengers, pedestrians, other cars, and
property, but it doesn’t cover injuries suffered by the driver or damage to his
or her car-cum-cab if there’s an accident.
Lyft has responded to the criticism by bumping up its coverage and even forming a new Peer-to-Peer Rideshare Insurance Coalition in order “to ensure a safe and trusted future for the emerging peer economy.”
Sunday, 23 February 2014
Your questions answered
In the summer of 2013 the government and insurance industry came to an agreement about flood-prone homes, to allow owners of such homes to be able to buy affordable insurance. Under a scheme called Flood Re, annual premiums will be capped and payouts for flood damage will come from a central pool of money.
How do I know if my home is affected?
The scheme covers 350,000 households which the Environment Agency says are at high risk of flooding. You can use its interactive map to find out if your home is one of them.
What does this mean for homeowners on flood plains?
Unless your property is in council tax band H then the flood aspect of your buildings insurance will be capped from 2015. The Association of British Insurance says the cap will be £210 a year for properties in bands A and B, rising to £540 a year in band G. The premiums will go in a central fund and be used to pay out claims to any insurer. In theory, some people could see their costs go down once the cap comes.
It is important to remember that the cap is only on the flood element of your insurance – if other risk factors change, your premiums could be pushed up by them.
Insurers will also pay a levy into the fund equivalent to £10.50 a year on every home insurance policy.
Does this mean my premiums will go up?
If you are on a flood plain it could, although you have probably already seen premiums rise to reflect the risk. If you are not on a flood plain insurers say the cost of the levy won't be added to policies as homeowners are already paying some of their premium to subsidise other customers at greater risk of flooding. However, the cost of this year's flooding could mean higher premiums for everyone as insurers attempt to cover their bills.
What happens to band H council tax payers?
They are not covered by the Flood Re scheme so could see premiums rise by a sum above the cap or find that their homes become uninsurable. This could have a knock-on affect on the value of their homes, as mortgage lenders will only offer loans on properties which have buildings insurance.
Is anyone else excluded?
Yes, homes built since 2009 are not covered – the ABI says this is designed "to avoid incentivising unwise building in flood risk areas". Neither are those owned by buy-to-let landlords or holiday lets. Leasehold properties are also excluded. The British Property Federation says there are 840,000 leasehold properties estimated to be at risk of flooding, 70,000 of which are deemed to be at high risk.
What does this mean for tenants?
Tenants should still be able to buy contents insurance for rented homes, but if their landlord is unable to get affordable insurance cover they could face problems if their property is ever flooded. Landlord insurance policies offer help towards rehousing costs, which the landlord might not otherwise be able to meet. The Residential Landlords Association says some of its members may decide to pull out of the sector as result.
Will the excess on my policy be affected?
The excess, which is the amount you have to pay towards the cost of any claim, could be kept down by the scheme. Some householders have reported being forced into taking on large excesses since being flooded. Flood Re should mean that insurers are happier to take on the risk of these properties and won't insist on large excesses when they do.
Will I have to stay with the same insurer?
No. The current agreement between the government and the industry ties insurers into covering existing customers but does not oblige them to cover anyone else, meaning anyone buying an affected property could struggle, as could those who want to shop around. Flood Re is designed to make it less risky for insurers to take on these customers so should mean people can move around.
Thursday, 20 February 2014
Getting a Great Deal on Auto Insurance for Young Drivers - Tip Sheet by AlarmSystemReport.com, Dyman & Associates Insurance Group of Companies
When it comes time for a teen to begin driving, it’s a source of a lot of apprehension for most parents. Of course there’s the safety aspect, but there’s also the cost. Teenagers generally have very high auto insurance costs, simply because they’re not experienced drivers. Although high costs may seem inevitable when insuring young drivers, there are some steps that can be taken to lower the premiums a bit. The team at AlarmSystemReport.com, an alarm system review site, has created a list of the top tips that can allow teens to drive without spending a fortune.
1. Many companies offer good student discounts—so it’s just one more incentive for a teen to make good grades. The thinking behind these discounts is that teens who maintain good grades are generally more responsible overall. If a student maintains at least a B average, this should be brought to the attention of the insurance company. Discounts for good grades can average about 15%.
2. While it can be tempting to purchase a first time driver a clunker, cars with safety features, like air bags, are actually going to mean lower insurance costs.
3. Encourage teens to enroll in a defensive driving course. Many of these courses are approved by insurance agencies, and if they’re taken, can mean a significant reduction in auto insurance costs.
4. Choose a company with an accident forgiveness program. This means that if a teen driver is part of a small, at-fault accident, rates won’t rise the first time. This is important, because an accident, even a minor one, can mean a huge increase in premiums for young drivers.
5. Just as a home security system can lower homeowner’s insurance costs, car alarm systems can also mean lower premiums. It doesn’t have to come with the vehicle, DIY alarm systems designed for use in vehicles will work to lower insurance costs as well.
6. Some states have graduated license programs in place, but if not, parents should enforce their own. For example, for the first year, limit teen drivers to only driving up until 9 p.m., and limit the number of passengers they may have in the vehicle.
7. Many parents find it useful to have their teen pay their own insurance costs. This helps them better understand and appreciate how expensive it is, thereby encouraging them to be a safe driver and keep costs low.
Alarm System Report is the most trusted site related to the home alarm and security industry. Organized on a state-by-state basis, whether a consumer is seeking information on Ohio security systems, or Hawaii security systems, the information is available on the site. The creators of the site work to make information relative to residents of each state, and they frequently update their comprehensive reviews and rankings of top companies and equipment.
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/teen-auto-insurance/auto-insurance-discounts/prweb11538600.htm
Wednesday, 19 February 2014
MIDAS SHARE TIPS UPDATE: Our Quindell car insurance tip up fivefold, so what next?, Dyman & Associates Insurance Group of Companies
Insurance outsourcer Quindell was also quite small when Midas tipped it in May 2012, but the business has expanded dramatically and brokers expect further substantial growth.
Back then, the shares were 5.63p and the company was valued at £145 million. Today the shares are 321⁄2p, valuing the group at almost £2 billion. The second largest company on AIM, it is moving to the main market in April and chief executive Rob Terry hopes to be in the FTSE 100 within 12 months.
His ambition may well be achieved as brokers expect the stock to reach at least 75p within the year.
Quindell provides all the services that insurers offer to customers when they are involved in a car accident and it is not their fault. These include processing claims, medical and legal services and replacement cars.
The firm handles about 25 per cent of all non-fault motor claims in the UK and it is gaining new customers all the time. Insurers like to offload their claims management to Quindell because it is efficient and manages to settle claims far more cheaply than the insurers can.
Terry has won £300 million of new business so far in 2014 and revenue from this division is predicted at more than £1 billion this year, rising to £1.5 billion over the next two years.
Quindell is also involved in telematics, technology that shows insurers how safe their customers are, using black boxes or even smartphone apps to track their driving habits.
The Association of British Insurers predicts that 10 million drivers will have telematics installed in their cars or on their phones in the next five years and Quindell’s technology is the best on the market.
The company owns 49 per cent of telematics group Ingenie, which has been backed by football presenter Gary Lineker.
Over the next few months, Terry is expected to acquire the rest of Ingenie in an all-share deal worth more than £50 million, but Lineker will remain on board.
Quindell also works with insure the box, which owns Drive like a Girl, and it has signed telematics contracts with three large insurers in the US and one in Canada.
In 2012, Quindell delivered profits of £49 million. Its 2013 results will be announced in a couple of months, but profits are expected to surge to at least £128 million, more than doubling again in the current year to £278 million.
A maiden dividend of 0.1p is scheduled to accompany the 2013 figures, rising to 0.2p for 2014.
Midas verdict: Rob Terry is fiercely ambitious and as a 12 per cent shareholder, he is motivated to make Quindell succeed. The speed of growth has frightened some investors, but large institutions such as Prudential and Investec are backing the business, which is reassuring.
Existing investors should hedge their bets and sell 30 per cent of their shares, but they should keep the rest. New investors could find value at current levels.
Tuesday, 18 February 2014
Small Business Insurance: What Agents Want You to Know, Dyman & Associates Insurance Group of Companies
Every business should be insured, but as a first-time business owner, you may find it hard to navigate through the maze of plans and providers. Speaking with fellow entrepreneurs is a good start, but commercial insurance agents are familiar with a wide range of business needs, and can provide insight into what's best for your company. Here are four tips from insurance agents for small business owners:
Start with a business owner's policy
For affordable, broad-spectrum coverage for your new business, it's best to start with a business owner's policy (BOP), said Judy Coblentz, chief underwriting officer at Travelers Insurance. This type of policy combines both property and general liability insurance, and typically covers events that cause suspended operations, property damage or lawsuits. Depending on the type of business you own and the number of employees you have, you may need additional specific types of insurance, but a BOP will at least provide basic protection from common business losses.
"It's important that small business owners have a conversation with an insurance agent about what a BOP policy does and does not cover, and determine whether the business's needs call for additional coverage [types]," Coblentz told Business News Daily. [5 Websites for Comparing Small Business Insurance Quotes]
Cheaper isn't always better
When you're trying to get a business off the ground, keeping a low budget is often a top priority. For certain expenses, it's smart to go with the least-expensive option. In the case of business insurance, cost shouldn't be the only consideration. Shop around for a provider that's in your price range but that also offers comprehensive coverage and business support services.
"Select the best carrier for your business needs," said Hale Johnston, senior vice president of small business insurance carrier Employers. "There may be more than one. Look beyond [the price], and make sure an agency is providing a good quote proposal and experience in your state and industry."
"You should choose your insurance adviser as you would any other professional," added Michael Zeldes, senior vice president of insurance brokerage HUB International Northeast. "Make sure [the agency] has buying power, negotiating strength and expertise in your industry, and provides services such as a risk-management department that can help avoid potential claims."
Be prepared for an audit during your first policy period
In general, the cost of an insurance policy is based on a business's annual gross sales. As a startup with no sales history, your policy premium will be based on your estimated annual sales for the first year.
"You will either be audited during the course of the policy or at the end of the policy period, and your premium may be adjusted based on your true sales," said Ken Gaylord, commercial insurance specialist at Montgomery and Associates Insurance Agency. "Always be as accurate as possible [in your sales records] to avoid any hidden surprises."
Consider all possibilities for your business's future
Although an accident, disability or illness that could threaten the viability of your business may seem unlikely, it's important to consider what it would mean for your company if these situations were to occur.
"Small business owners should consider the ramifications of the loss of revenue and the succession of the business they've work so hard to achieve," said Mitchell Smith, managing partner of Universal Insurance Services.
Smith recommended looking into disability, long-term care and life-insurance policies to ensure the continuity of your company in the event something were to happen to you or a key player in your business.
Monday, 17 February 2014
How to Speed up your Car Insurance Claim – Tips for the Uninitiated, Dyman & Associates Insurance Group of Companies
Getting in trouble with your car is already a frustrating experience, filing for an insurance claim only to realize that it’d take time for processing and payments would only add to it. You don’t want to waste time. You obviously don’t want to run pillar to post when you could be doing better things with that time. The ideal situation – from an accident to claim disbursements – has everything to do with shortened turn around time. While most of the processing time depends on the auto insurance company, is there anything you could do to speed up this process?
There is. Here’s what you should do:
Don’t even get into it
Some accidents just happen and you really have no control over these occurrences. Most accidents, however, are based on human error. The fastest way to claims is to “not claim at all”. Either the accident should be minor and not require you to file a claim or you should avoid getting into situations that have nothing to do with claims (such as no accidents at all).
Drive responsibly. Avoid high-accident possibility scenarios such as rash driving, changing lanes without warning, over speeding, drunk driving, and not following traffic rules. Take public transport, if it’s feasible for you. Most people who get used to cars don’t realize that public transport is efficient, quick, and relatively safer.
If nothing works for you and a car is an absolute must, make sure you wear your seat belts.
If it has to be done, do what the insurers say (and quick)
Sometimes, following a process is the fastest way to get things done even if you don’t like it. Accidents aren’t fun either; you did get into one, didn’t you? The first step is to report the accident immediately and do exactly what the insurers ask you do. Don’t hatch any clever plans. Don’t bother taking it to a nearby mechanic. Don’t change anything about the scene, the car, or the situation. Report everything as is. The more truthful you are, the faster the outcome is. So admit it if it’s your fault. Insurance covers for your faults too.
Insurance claims will involve investigation, reports, and processes. You can help speed up these processes. The claims are valid only if the accident is recent or immediately.
Understand what car insurance companies do
The automobile insurance processes and as to how auto companies work can be baffling, and there’s no denying that. But that doesn’t mean you don’t bother to understand what goes on with the claims process at least since that’s where your money gets stuck.
It really helps if you understand the process, the investigation protocols, and how insurance companies resolve disputes on case-by-case basis. Each state has its own insurance rules and every insurance company has its own way of dealing with cases. Understanding the claims process generally is one thing; getting to the insides of your car’s insurance company is another.
Bridget Mintz of Edmunds.com has a post on how insurance companies work and it might help you to give it a quick read. More importantly, know your auto insurance company’s processes and ways of working.
The overall working of most insurance companies is, thankfully, more or less similar and it’ll help if you get to know that.
Do your “due diligence” on the spot
With a little planning and a proactive approach, you could almost half the time it takes for insurance companies to process your claims. You’d just have to think ahead. According to Kimberly Lankford of Kiplinger.com, it helps when you don’t just exchange information such as contact details with the other party involved in a skirmish or an accident.
Instead, go proactive and take pictures of both the cars (and personal damages instantly. The pictures should include the scene of the accident, the insurance card of the other driver, the actual state of the vehicles, the other drivers’ license plate, registration, and any other details you can get hold of. Grab some witnesses and record statements if you have to.
You’d do most of the work that’s necessary for faster approvals already.
Check with insurance companies and use tools for faster claims
Some auto insurance companies provide you with facilities to help you speed up the car insurance claim process. You could use mobile apps or mobile websites (if available) to upload the pictures and other information right from where you are at the accident scene.
There are other apps available such as Traveler’s auto accident app that can guide you through the steps that need to be taken by you (or by someone close to you) to document the accident properly.
The app also stamps the location, time, and date of the accident automatically. It helps you upload photographs on the scene. It allows you to access roadside assistance, record audio descriptions, and send all of this information to any email address.
Stephen Williams of NyTimes.com wrote a feature on smartphone apps for auto insurance claims, and notes apps that most automobile insurance companies have developed. Some companies he mentions are Liberty Mutual, Allstate Mobile, Geico Glovebox, State Farm Pocket Agent, and Progressive. Christopher Beck of Tech.co adds MetLife Infinity App and Goodride By AllState
Some apps even have information and facilities at your fingertips such as calling 911, car rentals and hotels nearby, and on tow-truck services nearby.
Staying diligent, methodical, prepared, and alert will help speed up your claims process (of course, these habits go a long way to help you generally, anyway). If it’s not about your life yet, it’s crucial that you get your claims processed as early as possible.
Some people can have crippled days just because of the unavailability of the car. If you find yourself in a situation like that, it’s best if you follow the process and let your insurance company handle the rest.
Sunday, 16 February 2014
Owning a rental condominium is a great investment opportunity, but it comes with a unique set of responsibilities.
Condos make landlords vulnerable because of the various parties involved, including tenants, condominium boards and commercial organizations, as well as the nuances of rental legislation.
To protect yourself against costly repairs and other major headaches, take the following steps:
Understand the insurance landscape: The relationship between you, your tenant, and the building itself (which is subject to a commercial policy) can complicate matters, especially in regard to insurance.
While policies sometimes overlap, certain things inevitably slip through the cracks and could become contentious.
Start by consulting a trusted insurance advisor to identify any possible issues or oversights.
Supplement your basic landlord coverage: Most traditional policies do not include appliances. So, if something goes wrong with your tenant’s stove or fridge, you could be held financially responsible.
“Avoid this by adding those items to your existing landlord policy,” says Blake Reichert, regional vice-president at Western Financial Group. “We all hope that tenants will be responsible, but you need to plan for any eventuality.
“You should also determine whether or not upgrades to your unit are covered by your existing policy,” adds Reichert. “Many owners will improve their space without supplementing their coverage. An insurance broker can advise you on the best way to proceed when you make changes, no matter how small.”
Ensure that your tenant has an individual policy: Before entering a new rental agreement, ask for a copy of your tenant’s individual policy and share it with your insurance broker. That way you can find any gaps in coverage.
Also, since these policies must be regularly renewed, build a stipulation into the lease that allows you to check it on an annual basis.
As with your insurance, tenant policies can either be quite comprehensive or very specific, often encompassing their property and nothing further. It is a good idea to be clear on where your insurance ends and the tenant’s begins.
More information is available at www.westernfinancialgroup.ca
Friday, 14 February 2014
In both English and the native tongue written in both your phone's notes (or snap a photo) and in a little notebook (phone batteries die). Everyone in your group should do this as reality is, you might lose your friends.
2. Get travel insurance and register with S.T.E.P.
If your insurance doesn't already cover you overseas. I know heaps of people (usually British for some reason) who get injured overseas and have to head home or pay medical costs up front. Register with S.T.E.P. (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program)
3. If you're walking alone at night.
Walk slightly behind a couple. It sounds a little creepy, but you don't want to stand out as walking alone. Especially as a girl, the couple you could be following will usually get the vibe with a smile. Obviously, don't follow them home, but stay on the same side of the street as them.
4. Avoid dark or non-tourist areas at night.
If you do feel uncomfortable, switch train cars or walk into very busy areas such as a restaurant.
5. If you do think you are being followed.
Stop to ask security or a public place for help. You can walk into a hotel that's not yours to ask for help. Whatever you do, don't walk to where you're staying.
6. Keep money in more than one location.
In case some is robbed.
7. Get a sturdy bag. Wear your backpack facing front.
Not something with a thin strap that can be broken, nor a clutch that can be grabbed, nor a wallet in a front or back pocket. My friend literally caught a woman's hand in his pocket in a metro in Barcelona. Another friend had his backpack back pocket unzipped and things taken in Italy. If you look like a tourist (which you do), you're a target for professionals!
8. Don't bring attention to yourself as being a tourist
Especially if alone or in a small group.
9. If you're taking public transport to a night club or to meet up with friends for social outing.
You might be somewhere where the culture is for a more conservative attire, so you may feel more comfortable covering up or wearing a coat until you get to the venue. Or bring clothes to change at your friends' so that when you are in your youthful attire, you're in a group and not alone.
10. Just don't get too drunk.
It seems obvious, but you're in a foreign country, so you're a target for all types of crimes just by being a tourist; being drunk just multiplies that risk by like a 1,000 (not actual statistic).
11. Lock Up!
Lock your windows and doors, hide everything inside, and keep a lock on your belongings.
12. Ask questions regarding public transport.
Maybe the train or bus will take you to Point B, but once at Point B, there won't be any cabs for the rest of your night's journey. Maybe something is available throughout the entire night, but only in increments of every couple hours.
13. If you anticipate feeling really unsafe, pay the $20 - $40 to get an international sim card.
You can pop this into your iPhone and have internet everywhere. Google Maps you will generally show you where a cab is taking you and Google Translate can help ou ask locals questions.
14. Don't wear jewelry.
Unless you're staying in a luxury hotel and have their private cabs driving you and picking you up.
15. Don't take cabs that aren't registered with the city.
16. If you're traveling alone or in a small group, try to meet people during the day to hang out with at night.
Not that new friends couldn't be creepers too, but odds are your judgment is better in daylight and sober.
17. Book up on boozin'.
The alcohol content in some beers is almost twice as much as American beers. A single vodka soda in Sydney is actually legally calculated, so a vodka soda in Europe could be three to four times stronger.
18. Don't leave your drink unattended.
19. Keep your friends and family posted on where you are.
Mostly, just to keep them sane.
20. You can join a tour group or meet up with friends of friends.
To still get that independence (not committing 24/7 to a travel buddy), but having someone around when you want them.
21. Trust your gut.
Seriously, it's probably right.
Thursday, 13 February 2014
From the start, the math didn't add up.
My wife, Kathy, and I were headed to France for a half year. I'd be on a paid sabbatical, but Kathy was retiring, and we weren't ready to tap her Social Security. Even with our house rented at a discount, complete with our golden retriever, the basic addition looked daunting:
Overall income: Down 40 percent.
Basic expenses: Up at least $1,000 a month.
Outlook: A bit scary.
Still, this would be that "trip of a lifetime," so we didn't want to scrimp either. No hostel hopping. No sleeping in a VW van. No diet of sprouts and beans. (Though we may be in our 60s, The '60s ended long ago.)
Instead, we planned early and budgeted about $2,500 a month from retirement to cover what my income wouldn't. It still meant scaling back some plans. But, so far we're living within our means, and not feeling the least bit deprived.
So if daddy didn't leave you a trust fund, you itch to see the world and you favor long-haul travel with a dash of comfort, here are a dozen ways to make it happen:
Travel costs increase in direct proportion to the speed at which one moves. Gas alone in France, for example, costs nearly $9 a gallon. Trains are pricey, too. We chose to live in one place, Aix-en-Provence, a city of about 140,000 in the South of France, for five of our six months here, settling for occasional day trips out of town.
2. Rent with care:
It's one thing to weather a bad night on the road. It's quite another to hate coming home for months at a time. I began scouring rentals on sites such as homeaway.com, vrbo.com, airbnb and sabbaticalhomes.com a year before we left. We wanted someplace in easy walking distance of the old city, with an extra room for guests and work, and an outdoor patio. After carefully reading renter reviews, we choose a three-bedroom apartment on a quiet street (found on homeway.com, which unlike some services, doesn't charge renters).
The apartment isn't cheap -- about $1,775 a month now with a weak dollar. But it's less than smaller apartments in city center, and it comes with morning serenades by the local birds.
3. Avoid big cities:
Everyone loves Paris. We're no exception. But we chose Aix for its slower pace and more reasonable costs. It's a city with just about everything -- daily markets, movies, outdoor cafes, concerts, bookstores, scenic walks, good restaurants, a smattering of museums and squares that positively ooze ambiance. It also, usually, has plenty of sunshine. And all this at a fraction of what will tumble from your wallet every day in that city on the banks of the Seine. We'll spend a week in Paris and love it. But smaller cities are still plenty of fun.
4. Cancel everything you can before you leave home:
We shut down our phones, parked our cars, cancelled Netflix, a French-language TV station, my school parking space and newspapers. It adds up.
5. Get credit and debit cards that don't charge a fee:
Most cards tack on a three percent overseas transaction fee. Not Capitol One.
6. Keep track of daily expenditures:
This allows us to both check ourselves and reward ourselves. It takes little effort. I keep a running tally in a notebook I keep in my back pocket.
7. Eat out at lunch, not dinner:
One of the pleasures of life in France is the food. So although Kathy cooks most of our meals with the riches of the daily marketplace, we treat ourselves to a couple of meals out each week. On those occasions, we usually eat a big mid-day meal. The formule at many restaurants -- a main course, entrée or dessert, and a glass of wine -- is perhaps 50 or 60 percent the cost of an evening dinner. The portions are as large and the food just as good.
8. Look for little local places, too:
At Le Brun'ch, on Rue Portalis, the food is fresh and the language of choice French. A slice of quiche -- spinach, mushroom or the special of the day -- costs $3.20 and makes a lovely light lunch. Hungry? The plat du jour is $11. And a bottle of water sits on every table (You can always ask for "une carafe d'eau" in France. Don't pay for sparkling water.)
9. Leave the driving to others:
Being car-free makes us carefree. We have no parking costs. Pay no insurance or tolls. Buy no gas. We've already taken bus trips with our language school to Nice and the Luberon mountain towns of Provence. We've visited Marseille on our own and will again this weekend. The full-day bus trips cost us $35 each (gas, tolls, parking and rental would have been more). And the roundtrip fare to Marseille costs about $14.
As spring arrives, we'll need a car to do more research for my blog, slowlanetravel.com. We'll probably rent one for a couple of individual weeks and the month of June. But six weeks costs a lot less than six months. And we do not miss driving at all because we can walk everywhere.
10. Shut down your smart phone:
We call the States by Facetime or Skype. Email to email calls are free. For a pittance, you can buy a Skype "phone number" that allows friends and family at home to dial a local number to call overseas. For local calls, we've bought cheap phones for less than $40 each, and monthly phone cards that cost $28 each. The overall cost of calling anywhere in France is half of our monthly Verizon Wireless bill at home.
11. Trade off with friends who visit:
We have a simple rule for visitors. We'll house you and feed you if you rent a car. This gives us the chance to see more places off the beaten track when friends come to town.
12. Don't fritter; do reward yourself:
It's the little things that burn a hole in your wallet: The $5 you drop on coffee because you get it with cream, the $3.50 cokes you don't need if you carry a water bottle, the overpriced vendors in the market because you haven't comparison-shopped. Drink wine; it costs so much less. And be selective. For example, we went to a lovely free concert of Bach cantatas, but passed on $55 seats to the Mozart Requiem. I pay $10 for a weekly four-hour bridge game. We walked to the park where Paul Cezanne painted "Mont St. Victoire" for nothing.
But do reward yourself. Every so often, Kathy and I simply have to stop by Bechard for a pastry filled with whipped cream and fresh fruit. Yup. Each one costs $4.50. But you can't buy these in Boston. Anywhere. And without food, without wine, you might as well not be in France.
Wednesday, 12 February 2014
Two-thirds of insurance customers would consider purchasing insurance products from organizations other than insurers, including 23 percent who would consider buying from online service providers such as Google and Amazon.
These are key findings published in new research from Accenture. The report is based on a survey of more than 6,000 insurance customers in 11 countries.
Where people consider getting their insurance from:
- Banks - 43 percent;
- Online service providers - 23 percent;
- Home service providers, such as telecommunication or home security companies - 20 percent;
- Retailers - 14 percent; and
- Car dealers - 12 percent.
- Banks - 43 percent;
- Online service providers - 23 percent;
- Home service providers, such as telecommunication or home security companies - 20 percent;
- Retailers - 14 percent; and
- Car dealers - 12 percent.
“Competition in the insurance industry could quickly intensify as consumers become open to buying insurance not only from traditional competitors such as banks but also from Internet giants,” says Michael Lyman, global managing director for management consulting within Accenture’s Insurance Industry Practice. “Overall, there is a significant switching risk and we estimate that up to $400 billion in insurance premiums could change hands within the insurance industry over the next 12 months.”
The research shows that loyalty in insurance is a key issue. In the life insurance market, 25 percent of respondents say they are likely to cancel an existing contract and 35 percent say they are likely to take out a new contract with a new provider in the next 12 months.
Lower prices and more personalized service are the top reasons for consumers to switch to a new insurer, cited as important or very important in switching decisions by 87 percent and 80 percent, respectively, of the insurance customers surveyed. Forty-one percent of respondents say they are willing to pay more to get personalized advice when purchasing their insurance.
The research also reveals that 67 percent of consumers are interested in mobile insurance services — such as sending pictures of their car to report a claim, or displaying their proof of insurance on their mobile phone — while 46 percent of the respondents that are mobile device owners have already used their tablets, and 37 percent their smartphones, to deal with their insurers.
Also, 35 percent of insurance customers are open to provide access to their usage or behavior information (such as car-usage or lifestyle information) if this can give them better value for their insurance coverage. Almost half (47 percent) of the respondents say it would depend on the information requested and only 18 percent were not comfortable doing so.
Tuesday, 11 February 2014
When moving your business to a new location, proper planning saves you time and money. Packing and unpacking take time, and haphazardly placing critical support equipment in your new space can result in ongoing inefficiencies (Where’s the copier? What happened to my filing cabinet?). Fortunately, moving your small business to a new location doesn’t have to mean days of disruption.
Brandon Morris, president of North Dallas Moving and Storage, has years of experience planning and executing small business moves. From getting everything ready to go into the truck, to ensuring the new space is ready to receive your equipment, Morris has the process down to a science. And now he wants to share his expertise with you.
5 Tips for an Efficient Small Business Move
1. Get onsite estimates, not online quotes
Your moving company needs a clear understanding of everything you plan to move. Morris says the vendor should conduct a detailed onsite inventory early in the process. "We never give quotes or prices without doing a visual survey," he explains. "So much can go wrong."
Anything large or cumbersome may require special moving equipment, and your estimation of how much you need to relocate could be way off. An onsite walk-through lets the vendor accurately gauge the labor and equipment required to get your team moved quickly, and it will also ensure the final bill doesn’t hold any surprises.
2. Listen to the experts
During the survey, pay attention to your vendor's advice. Those suggestions will save you time and money. "As we walk through the office, I give tips and ideas on moving," Morris says. For example, you can move some filing cabinets even if they're full. However, he says, many people don’t realize that "you need to empty the top two drawers of four-drawer laterals to prevent damaging the cabinet." Talk with your mover about options and procedures for moving artwork, office equipment or other items that may be particularly delicate or expensive.
3. Embrace efficiency
"The totes make it clean and simple," Morris says. His company’s quotes typically "include delivery of the totes three to four days prior to the move, and I determine the number of totes they’ll need while doing the onsite office survey." Once employees fill each tote, they just close them up and slap a label on them. The moving vendor retrieves them shortly after the move for use on the next job.
4. Plan ahead
It's a move: not a free-for-all. Creating a floor plan and a seating chart ahead of time helps everyone get situated in the new space with a minimum of fuss and disruption. Coupled with good signage in your new location, this process saves time and lets the movers place totes, furniture and other materials where they need to go.
While you’re streamlining things, work with the mover to assign one person to spearhead the operation on moving day. "The biggest concern is when they have several people onsite without a single point of contact," Morris explains. "You have people going in different directions, and that can overwhelm the customer."
5. Purge before you go
It’s simple math: the less stuff you have to move, the faster and cheaper your move will be. Most small businesses have the equivalent of a "back room," where old desks, chairs and computer monitors have gone to die. "Either donate the old equipment and use it as a tax write-off, or sell it to a used furniture place," Morris says.
For obsolete paper files, consider bringing in a mobile shredding truck before everyone starts packing. Also, determine if your team can consolidate the number of printers and copiers in the new location. Return any surplus to the leasing company.