Are Drone Accidents Covered By Insurance? As Drone Christmas Gifts Rise …

The insurance industry is bracing itself for the increase in amateur drone fliers that is sure to come after Christmas Day. Nearly a million drones were expected to be placed under Christmas trees in the US this year, and regulators and insurance experts say this could lead to more accidents as inexperienced aviators control the toys originally designed for military purposes.

Everyone has heard that drone use is on the rise , but 2015 is one of the first years drones have become a truly popular holiday gift. The Federal Aviation Administration announced earlier this month most drones would need to be registered with the federal government.

“Make no mistake: Unmanned aircraft enthusiasts are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement, according to US News and World Report.

As drone sales have increased, retailers have started providing warnings to potential buyers along with guides on how to use the flying gadgets safely. Best Buy, a big drone seller, has placed safety brochures in more than 1,000 stores, Insurance Journal reported. When shoppers buy a drone from Best Buy, they can also purchase a one-year membership to the Academy of Model Aeronautics, an Indiana group for model aircraft hobbyists that provides liability coverage up to $2.5 million.

Amazon similarly posts links to “Know Before You Fly,” an educational website from drone manufacturers. Of course, these educational precautions do not prevent all drone accidents, and there already have been several prominent examples of drone crashes gone wrong this year.

Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller said in a statement earlier this month that in”many cases, if you have liability coverage in your homeowners or renters policy, this will cover damage from a drone, but it is a good idea to check with your insurer before putting your drone in the sky,” the Morning Call reported.

But drone coverage is not universal, insurance experts warn, and some companies are starting to include exclusions that encompass recreational drones in anticipation of the increase in rookie fliers.

Homeowners policies at Allstate, one of the largest property insurers in the country, will cover damage if a policyholder damages someone else’s property with a drone, Allstate spokesman Justin Herndon told Insurance Journal. But if you damage your own home (called a “first-party claim”), that would not be covered. A spokesperson for State Farm said drone accidents would generally be covered like any other damage under its homeowner policies.

In the US, drone policies are new territory for insurance companies, so policies are likely to change as the number of personal drones goes up.

“Companies are trying to figure out how they can write this in a way that protects the consumer and does so in a reasonable way, but also a way in which they can turn a profit,” Don Griffin, vice president of personal lines at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, told the Morning Call.

People on the move in the P&C insurance industry: Dec. 25, 2015

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Nominated by the Pennsylvania Insurance Fraud Prevention Authority, Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Linda Montag has been named the 2015 Prosecutor of the Year by the Washington, DC-basedCoalition Against Insurance Fraud. Montag was recognized after she dismantled one of the largest insurance-fraud schemes in Philadelphias history. The award was presented at the Coalitions annual membership meeting in Washington.

Brentwood, Tenn.-based insurance risk services companyBrentwood Services Administrators Inc.has promoted Charles Gayton to claims supervisor in the Raleigh, NC, office. He joined Brentwood in January 2014 as a senior claims representative. Prior to joining the company, he was employed by Liberty Mutual, where he was a senior field investigator.

The Austin-basedInsurance Council of Texas Board of Directors has elected the following officers at their December meeting:

The Insurance Grinch tells all about Santa’s insurance woes

But times change.

In 68 some heathens in Philadelphia booed Santa. And two years later someone did the unthinkable and sued Santa. The reindeer came in for a hard landing and damaged a few shingles on a roof. It was minor. But Santa got dragged into court mumbling all the way about no good deed going unpunished.

After that, Blitzen bit off a kids finger and the family was pretty frosty. The floodgates were now open. Insurance became one of Santas biggest expenses. He stopped delivering gifts to trial lawyers houses.

For the past four decades Santas insurance has been written by Arctic Insurance Group. But despite all of Arctics promises to bail him out of trouble, it has been quite the opposite. Santas success at getting claims paid has resembled that of the Cubs. And the reason for this is easy to explain for the past 33 years, Santas claims were assigned to the Insurance Grinch.

The Insurance Grinch found just about every way possible to disclaim coverage for just about every claim that Santa presented. His skills were unparalleled. When Santa began to get inundated with claims for knocking out Dish Network service with his sleigh, the Insurance Grouch disclaimed coverage on the basis of the aircraft exclusion. Wow! Now thats impressive.

Good news for Santa: The Insurance Grinch recently retired. Hes headed to Minnesota to enjoy the warmer weather. He bought a house in a neighborhood with lots of kids so he can tell them to get off his lawn. The Insurance Grinch agreed to give an exclusive interview to Coverage Opinions addressing a claims career like none other.

Coverage Opinions: Thank you Insurance Grinch for taking the time to discuss your 30-plus year career handling Santas claims. Were the other adjusters jealous that you handled such a fascinating and unique account?

Insurance Grinch: Very much so. But not because I was handling Santas claims. Because it meant that I didnt have to deal with any construction defect claims.

What was your favorite thing about handling Santas claims?

When you put on your profile for occupation that you handle Santa Clauss insurance claims, it makes a lot of people want to meet you.

What was the most common claim from Santa that you handled?

Thats easy. A kid would ask Santa for something like an iPad. And hed wake up on Christmas morning and find a sweater. Then, just as day follows night, in rolled the claim against Santa for breach of contract and detrimental reliance.

How did you handle these?

Well, there was no bodily injury, property damage or personal and advertising injury to trigger commercial general liability coverage. And several years ago, the North Pole Supreme Court held that when Santa opens a letter from a youngster, it qualified as the formation of a contract. I know. Its crazy, right. But its a liberal bench up here. But once the court found that an opened letter was a contract, it became easy to disclaim coverage since the professional liability policy has a breach of contract exclusion.

Tell me about that claim where Blitzen bit off a kids finger?

The kid was visiting Santa on a school trip and handing Blitzen a carrot. Except the kid was holding it in front of Blitzens mouth and the pulling it away. Holding it in front of his mouth and the pulling it away. The kid deserved it. Im pretty sure Blitzen did it on purpose. At least I hope he did.

Was it covered?

No. We had a reindeer exclusion in all of the policies. I know. It seems strange given that the reindeer are such an essential part of Santas operation. But Santa didnt read the policy. At least not until it was too late. And the broker was asleep at the switch. So we were able to get it in. And we have refused to take it out. Were the only insurer in the North Pole. So where else is Santa going to go?

What was the most expensive claim that you handled?

One year Santa was in someones living room, and his toy sack knocked a vase off a table. Turns out it was from the Ming Dynasty. Worth $2 million. The homeowners insurer paid for it. We were sure a subro claim would be made. We kept waiting but it never came in. Word on the street was that the homeowners carrier was afraid of the bad press from suing Santa.

Were there any unique liability issues involving Santa?

Many years ago, the North Pole Supreme Court held that Santa can be liable for a defective product under the Restatement of Torts 402(A). As you can imagine, this opened Santa up to massive products liability exposure defective BB guns, Easy Bake Ovens that start a fire, Parcheesi pieces that get swallowed. He was never able to get products coverage after that.

You dont get too many visitors up here. Seems like Santas premises exposure was pretty minimal.

True. Not many make their way here. No direct flights. But that didnt stop Santa from having premises liability exposure. Santa never shoveled the snow. He blamed a bad back, but I think he was just lazy. The mail man would come 10 times a day during the busy season, and constantly wipe out on ice while walking up Santas driveway. Santa knew it was going to happen. Finally, we said enough is enough and disclaimed coverage based on no occurrence.

Were there are claims that involve Coverage B of the commercial general liability policy?

One in particular. Santa would put a kid on the naughty list. The brat would turn around and sue for defamation. But we were successful in knocking these out of coverage on the basis that there was no publication of the kids naughty status. The only one who knew was the kid himself when he received the mandatory 10-day notice letter from Santa.

What about the elves. Did they ever cause any trouble for Santa?

Look, this was a big operation. At peak time, the elves work 16 hour days. What choice did Santa have? Work the elves to death or disappoint a kid in Cedar Rapids who wanted a fire truck. So of course, there were some wage and hour and overtime disputes. But we had an exclusion for this. The elves also got hurt fairly regularly. All the uncovered lawsuits required Santa to cut some corners on safety. Thankfully we didnt write the comp.

Did Santa ever damage any chimneys? Lets face it, hes not exactly svelte.

All the time. But that was an easy one to handle. Those claims fit right into the exclusion for property damage to that particular part of real property on which you are performing operations.

Any other interesting things about Santas risk program?

We require Santa to be an additional insured on all of the mall Santas policies. Not surprisingly, Santa sometimes gets brought into a suit against a mall Santa who did something stupid. But Santa didnt police their policies so he was never an additional insured. And we had an exclusion for Santas failure to secure additional insured rights.

Im starting to wonder were any claims covered?

Of course. Back in 98 we paid a claim. Wait. It might have been 97. A tyke fell off Santas lap. We looked at everything but just couldnt find a reason to disclaim. We thought about no occurrence since it seemed like faulty work. The kid is supposed to stay on Santas lap. He fell off. That sure sounded faulty to me. But in the end we settled and wrote a check. The policy had a pretty low sub-limit for claims arising out of, based on, in connection with or related to kids falling off Santas lap.

Have you been training your successor?

I have. But he still has a long way to go. On my last day in the office he got in a claim from a germaphobe family saying that Santa sneezed on their son. The kid is seeking medical monitoring for the rest of his life. The new adjuster was ready to appoint counsel. I said not so fast. Sounds like the pollution exclusion.

What advice did you give to your successor?

I explained to him that the vast majority of the claims come in the door in January and February. If hes doing his job, hell have them all disclaimed by the end of March. After that the key is to pretend to be busy for the next nine months.

This article originally appeared on Coverage Opinions.

Related:Insurance for Santa: What he needs coverage for

Missouri Lawmaker Considers Liability Insurance Requirement For Gun-Free …

(MissouriNet) — Gun rights supporters often argue that gun-free zones create places where criminals feel safer carrying out crimes and violence because it is less likely someone will have a gun to use to stop them.

Based on that, Representative Mike Moon (R-Ash Grove) believes owners of businesses in those zones bear some liability for their customers in the event of a crime.

Business owners within those gun-free zones really should have some responsibility if an individual patron is hurt in their business area, Moon told Missourinet. Why not require business owners in gun-free zones to hold enough liability insurance to cover any injury that would be caused by a gunshot or gun wound or even a death?
Moon says hes working on that proposal for the 2016 session.

Proponents of gun-free zones say there is no evidence that criminals seek them out as places to commit crimes.

Copyright 2016 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Why insurance companies care about cranberries

With cranberry prices at the lowest in a half century, Nodji Van Wychen has been forced to cut back on fertilizer, staff and pollinating bees just to keep her farm near Pittsville, Wisconsin going. Other cranberry growers are finding it easier to sell the farm to John Hancock Life Insurance Co. and its ever-expanding agriculture group.

“We pretty much cut everything in half,” the third- generation farmer said from her home at the family’s 110-acre marsh northwest of Milwaukee. It’s the worst environment she’s seen since 1959 when farmers dumped their entire crop amid a health scare. Van Wychen doesn’t want to sell the operation but admits the future of cranberries may not include family growers. “There are many smaller farmers that are finding that they literally cannot make it,” she said.

As cranberry season reaches its zenith over the Christmas holiday, farmers are increasingly selling family-owned cranberry bogs — the large tracts of wetland where the bobbing red fruit grow — to larger operators. One buyer name that reigns in these parts is John Hancock, whose agricultural investment group is actively looking for distressed cranberry operations to add to its $2.5 billion in assets.

“Right now, the cranberry industry is under pressure,” Oliver Williams, president of the agriculture unit, said by phone from Boston. “We can find a cranberry farm that needs to be rejuvenated, has to be replanted, we can go in and buy that property. It’s the typical supply-demand response.” The investor group has about 150 employees, most of them farmers.

Employees at the unit of Toronto-based insurer Manulife Financial Corp. are in constant conversation with other farmers, scoping out opportunities such as the 180-acre cranberry bog in Wisconsin the company bought in September. It’s now part of the 2,300 acres of cranberries that it manages for pension funds and other institutional investors, among 300,000 acres of other assets that include walnuts, corn and wheat across the US, Australia, and Canada.

Agriculture is a long-term investment, letting Hancock withstand periods of low returns for clients with decades-long liabilities. The average annual return on Hancock Agriculture’s portfolio for the last decade was 14 percent, compared with 7.5 percent for the Standard amp; Poor’s 500 Index.

“It’s not about ‘where is the industry today’ but ‘do you believe in the industry long-term,’ ” Williams said.

The $3.55 billion industry is still reeling from 2013, when a record 8.8 million barrels of cranberries were harvested in the US, an 11 percent jump from the prior year, according to the Cranberry Marketing Committee, the industry group that promotes the berries. The bright red fruit flooded the market, pushing down prices as low as $8 per 100-pound (45-kilogram) barrel, from about $40 in 2010, according to the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association. It costs about $30 a barrel to produce. Last year’s harvest came in at 8.1 million barrels, the second-highest ever.

About a dozen marshes were abandoned in 2015, when farmers simply declared bankruptcy and walked away, according to Michelle Hogan, executive director of the Cranberry Marketing Committee. About 30 farms have been sold nationwide, with about half in Wisconsin, she said.

“It’s going to be a rough ride for the next few years,” said Tom Lochner, executive director of the commodity’s association in Wisconsin, the US state that produces more than half the world’s supply of cranberries. Aside from overproduction, farmers face stagnant local demand as Americans still think of cranberries as a holiday fruit, eating a third of the harvest over Thanksgiving and Christmas.

SIHO again handling insurance for city employees

City employees will continue to receive their insurance coverage from Columbus-based SIHO Insurance Services after the provider selected to replace the company beginning next year withdrew its proposal.

The Columbus Board of Works chose Dunn amp; Associates as the citys next insurance provider in October. Board members Bob Sullivan, Jason Hyer and Mayor Kristen Brown voted in favor of switching from SIHO to Dunn, while Bob Crider voted no, and Caleb Tennis was absent.

The local company already provides administrative services for Bartholomew County governments insurance plans. The city agreed to pay $118,000 to Dunn, which offered a 100 percent pharmacy discount and rebates passed back to the city.

However, Dunn withdrew its proposal to serve as city health insurance administrator in November. The company did not respond to several requests from The Republic seeking comment about why it no longer wanted the job.

After the withdrawal, Brown said the citys best option was to extend its current contract with SIHO, which has had the contract for the past 10 years.

If we wanted to continue to provide benefits to our employees, this was our only option, Brown said.

Although SIHO had already been notified that the city would be canceling its contract at the end of this year, Brown said, terms of the contract allowed it to be renewed annually if needed.

SIHOs current contract is slightly more expensive than the proposal SIHO submitted to the Board of Works for next year, Brown said.

The new proposal asked for $199,056 with a pharmacy rebate offset of $47,520 that would be subtracted from the total cost.

However, the proposal also included a $5 monthly charge per employee for insurance coverage after an employee leaves a job that should not have been included in the initial comparisons. That brings SIHOs proposal down to $172,656 with $47,520 subtracted from the pharmacy rebate offset. The final cost would have been $125,136, about $7,000 more than the bid Dunn submitted and then withdrew.

Health insurance proposals

The city received insurance proposals from four providers to serve as administrator in 2016, including:

  • Dunn amp; Associates, Columbus: $118,008 with a 100 percent pharmacy discount and rebates passed back to the city.
  • Unified Group Services, Anderson: $153,120.
  • Benefit Administrative Services, Chicago: $141,920 with 100 percent of the pharmacy discounts and rebates passed back to the city.
  • SIHO Insurance Services, Columbus: $199,056, with a pharmacy rebate offset of $47,520 that would be subtracted from the total cost. The proposal also included a $5 monthly charge per employee for insurance coverage after an employee leaves a job, bringing the total proposal down to $172,656 with $47,520 subtracted from the pharmacy rebate offset.

Chris Rickert: County’s toothless insurance requirement is minor risk in …

A Canadian company looking to build a new Dane County oil pumping station believes a County Board decision to leave in place a state-invalidated spill insurance requirement “creates confusion, regulatory uncertainty and unpredictability.”

Keep in mind this is a company in the oil business — one of the most confusing, least certain and least predictable businesses there is.

The board voted Dec. 3 to keep the $25 million requirement in Enbridge Energy’s conditional use permit after Legislative Republicans essentially invalidated it with a last-minute amendment to the 2015-17 state budget in July.

Migrants will get more time to sign up for insurance

HONOLULU – The federal government is allowing more time for a group of migrants in Hawaii to enroll in health insurance plans under President Barack Obamas health care law.

People living in Hawaii under the Compact of Free Association will get 60 extra days – until Feb. 15 – to sign up, Gov. David Ige announced Thursday.

The compact allows migrants from several Pacific Island nations to live and work freely in the US In exchange, the US military controls strategic parts of the region.

But an estimated 4,300 migrants who were insured through the Hawaii Health Connector havent been able to enroll in the federal site because theyre having trouble due to language barriers and documentation requirements, state officials said.

The decision to extend the deadline came as welcome news to people who have been helping with the enrollment efforts.

Thats truly a Christmas present for a lot of families who were not able to make the deadline, said Josie Howard, program director for We Are Oceania, a nonprofit organization that helps Micronesians who live in Hawaii. Its very good news. Were very appreciative of that decision.

Once people from compact nations are enrolled, a state program covers the cost of the premiums, said Rachel Wong, director of the state Department of Human Services.

We havent had this type of collaboration between the state and this community before, Wong said.

The state negotiated with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to extend the enrollment time.

We appreciate the federal governments understanding of the special circumstances our residents from compact nations face when seeking health care services in Hawaii, Ige said.

Interpreters from We Are Oceania have been working to help people from Palau, Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia enroll. But the process can take up to four hours, especially if the person enrolling has a large family, Howard said.

One of the main issues is that the federal call center for doesnt have enough interpreters who speak the languages of the Compact of Free Association nations, Wong said.

Another barrier is that the federal government has stricter guidelines than the state did about which documents people need on hand when they sign up. Enrollees are required to bring a passport and I94 form, a document marking their arrival in the country. But not everyone has their I94 form, and if its lost or stolen it costs about $330 to replace, Howard said.

Unique retail store helps people shop for health insurance

“The difference with us is that we’ve opened a retail store where people can just walk in off the street, and we can help them get signed up for health insurance,” said Melissa Becker.

The Beckers opened The Health Insurance Store at 6661 University Ave. in May and feel they’ve tapped into a thriving market, helping “hundreds” of customers just since Nov. 1, when open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, began.

“There’s no other store that’s like us in the state of Wisconsin,” said Melissa, who like her husband is a former Humana employee who has logged about 15 years in the health insurance industry.

The couple specializes in helping customers choose from the 82 health insurance plans available in Dane County, helping shoppers navigate the complicated landscape of deductibles, co-pays, premiums and subsidies.

And the service costs nothing. Melissa said the insurance carriers they work with pay them for the clients they sign up. And because the amount they get paid from the insurance carriers varies little, she said worries that they’re padding their own wallets by steering clients one way or another can be put to rest.

“It’s pretty close,” she said of their compensation agreements with insurers. “It might be off a little bit, but nothing to the point that it would make us sell one carrier over another.”

The store, just over the Madison border in Middleton, is the next level up from a health insurance service Aaron started two years ago and operated out of an office building on Madison’s west side.

“The biggest feedback he was getting from his clients was, ‘I had no idea that there were people who could help me with my health insurance, Melissa said. “People don’t realize that there are even health insurance agents out there.”

So the concept for The Health Insurance Store was hatched.