Checking Your RV Insurance Now Will Save You Headaches Later

By Darrin Sanger
May 28, 2010

Thousands of RV owners across the state are gearing up for Memorial Day weekend and a summer of traveling and camping trips.

If you own an RV or you're looking to buy one, make sure it's properly insured before you hit the road. This simple step could save you from a summer's worth of headaches and financial burdens.

"The main point of a vacation is to get away from it all," said Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president. "The last thing you want is the double whammy of having an accident and then finding out you don't have the right insurance on your RV."

Your RV is more than a car and insurance for your RV should reflect that. Usually, RV Insurance will cover more than what your car insurance covers.

The NW Insurance Council offers the following tips to help you be sure you've properly insured your recreational vehicle:

  • Consider insuring your RV on its own policy, rather than adding it to your auto policy. You keep many items in your RV that you wouldn't normally keep in your car such as furnishings, jewelry, laptops, video recorders and clothing.
  • Coverage is available in the event of loss or damage to certain items outside the RV up to 25 percent of the replacement cost.
  • If parked at a campsite, you could be liable if someone is injured in the surrounding area.
  • If your RV is damaged while you're traveling, you'll need a place to stay and a way to get there. A standard auto policy may not cover these losses or RV towing, which could cost you thousands of dollars.
  • The high value of many RVs and the potential for extensive physical damage from an accident may mean you'll need additional coverage. Evaluate coverage available through your auto insurance company. If the coverage is not adequate to meet your needs, explore coverage with a company or agent who writes policies specifically designed for RVs.

You can get more information on insuring your RV by visiting NW Insurance Council or calling at (800) 664-4942.

Seattle, Yakima, Spokane, Eugene Rank in Nation's Top 50 For Auto Theft; More Than 37,400 Vehicles Stolen Across Northwest

Top 10 Most Stolen Vehicles

The Northwest continues to be a hotbed for auto thieves as several cities rank high in the nation despite an overall 14.9-percent drop in theft rates last year.

Oregon saw the largest dip as car thefts dropped 14 percent from 2008.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau's annual Hot Spots Report, Yakima, WA, topped all Northwest cities with the sixth-highest auto theft rate in the nation. Spokane, WA, ranked 18th, followed by the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area at 26th. Eugene ranked 46th, the Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton metro area ranked 77th and Salem ranked 84th.

Last year, 37,427 vehicles were reported stolen across all three states, an average of 103 vehicles per day and more than four vehicles an hour.

While the decrease in thefts is encouraging for drivers, auto theft is still a costly crime vehicle owners pay for through their insurance premiums.

Vehicle theft is the nation's number-one property crime, costing an estimated $6.4 billion in 2008, according to the FBI. The average value of a motor vehicle reported stolen in 2008 was $6,751.

"Consumers literally pay billions each year for auto theft," said Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president. "The cost to replace stolen vehicles and repair those that are recovered is reflected in your insurance rates."

Washington ranked highest among the Northwest states with 26,684 stolen vehicles, a 15.8 percent drop from 31,681 in 2008.

In Oregon, 9,727 vehicles were stolen last year, an 14-percent drop from 2008 figures when thieves stole 11,325 vehicles.

Idaho reported 1,016 stolen vehicles in 2009, a 1.2-percent increase from 1,004 stolen vehicles in 2008.

Is your car next? NW Insurance Council and NICB offer the following tips to help you reduce the risk of your vehicle from being stolen:

  • Keep your doors locked and windows completely rolled up.
  • Remove keys from the ignition, even when briefly stepping away from your car.
  • Keep valuable items such as bags, purses, cell phones and briefcases out of sight.
  • Always park your vehicle in well-lit areas.
  • Always activate your vehicle's security or alarm system when parked.
  • Before buying a new vehicle, check with your insurance company to find out which vehicles have the highest risk of being stolen.

If you witness or have knowledge of an auto theft, contact your local law enforcement agency. In some cases, auto theft is a form of insurance fraud when automobile owners stage phony accidents or arrange to have their vehicles stolen with hopes of collecting the insurance money.

If you know of anyone who has filed a false insurance claim, you may be eligible for up to $5,000 in reward money offered by NW Insurance Council. Call the Fraud Hotline at 800-TEL-NICB.

For more information about NICB's Hot Spots Report and insurance fraud, visit NW Insurance Council.

Get a CLUE: Understand a Home’s Claims History Before You Buy

SEATTLE - The home-buying season is just around the corner and many people are eagerly viewing potential new homes. Home insurers, however, urge buyers to take a cautious approach when evaluating houses. Without knowing a home's claims history, buyers could get stuck living in money pits instead of dream homes.

If you're in the market for a new home, NW Insurance Council encourages you to obtain a Loss History Report on a home before making an offer. Loss History Reports gives potential buyers the ability to review up to five-years of a home's claims history and verify if any prior damage was repaired correctly.

"New tools have become available in recent years that help a prospective homebuyer evaluate the condition of a home and the likelihood of burglary or vandalism in the neighborhood," said Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president.

"Some new homeowners who were unaware of these tools have been left with structural problems, substantially higher insurance rates or have had difficulty finding coverage because of past claims filed by previous owners," he added.

Checking a home's claims history is similar to examining a car's Vehicle History Report from CarFax, AutoCheck or ConsumerGuide, and allows you to make a well-informed purchasing decision.

How can you find out the history of a home before you buy? Ask the seller to provide you with the Loss History Report. This report gives you a five-year claims history of the home. If the current homeowner filed a claim in the past five years, including claims for water damage, fire or theft, the Loss History Report will show it.

If you're considering buying a new home, NW Insurance Council offers the following facts and tips to help you examine a home's claims history:

Loss History Reports are a powerful tool for both buyers and sellers. Buyers can request a Loss History Report from the seller as part of the real estate transaction. The reports can identify potential problems for the buyer's inspector to investigate.
A Loss History Report is simply a record of past claims.
70 to 80 percent of homes have clean Loss History Reports.
There are two types of Loss History Reports available to homeowners:
CLUE - Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, developed by ChoicePoint, Inc., Atlanta, Ga. This report is a five-year history of claims filed by all past and current owners of the property.
A-PLUS - Automobile-Property Loss Underwriting System, developed by Insurance Services Office (ISO). The A-PLUS report is a history of the current owner's claims up to five years. If the seller has owned the home for less than five years, the report will not include claims filed by past owners.
Both reports include a five-year loss history for homes and homeowners.
Homeowners, insurance companies and insurance agents have access to Loss History Reports.
A homebuyer cannot access a Loss History Report until a real estate contract is signed, due to the "permissible access" rules of the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The seller can obtain loss History Reports for less than $15.
CLUE Reports are available online at or by mail at (888) 497-0011 for $19.50.
A-PLUS reports are available at no cost for the first report. Call (800) 709-8842.
Consumers adversely affected by their Loss History Reports can get free copies of their reports from CLUE or A-PLUS.

For more information on homeowners insurance and Loss History Reports, visit NW Insurance Council or call (800) 664-4942.

May Is National Bike Month – Ride Safely and Make Sure You Are Adequately Covered

NEW YORK, May 10, 2010 — Thanks to National Bike Month and Bike to Work Week (May 17-21), many cyclists are getting their bicycles out of storage and onto the roads. Whether they ride commuter, hybrid, mountain or racing bikes, cyclists should understand the rules of the road and protect their financial investment with the proper insurance, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I).

Bicycling has increased in popularity both as a sport and as a means of transportation. Between 1992 and 2006, bicycle sales increased roughly 20 percent in the United States, from 15.3 million to 18.2 million per year, the U.S. Department of Justice noted in its most recent report. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, 44.7 million people rode bikes in 2008, up 11.4 percent from the previous year.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, more than 221,936 bicycles were stolen in 2008, while National Crime Victim Survey data from 2007 puts the number of incidents of bicycle and bicycle parts theft closer to 1.2 million.

Bicycles are stolen most often in densely populated areas such as cities and suburbs, but university and college towns are another hot spot; in fact bicycle thefts represent over half of property crimes on campuses.

“Bicycles can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars for a garden variety bike to custom-made options that can cost thousands of dollars,” said Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I. “To protect your bike, always make sure it is locked up and that you have adequate insurance coverage.”

If you are purchasing a new bike, keep the receipt and call your insurance agent or company representative immediately. Depending on the cost of the bike, you may want to list it on your policy or purchase an endorsement. Your insurance agent or company representative can review your coverage options with you.

Bicycles are covered under the personal property section of standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. This coverage will reimburse you, minus your deductible, if your bike is stolen or damaged in a fire, hurricane or other disaster listed in your policy.

There are two types of coverage for personal property:

  • Actual Cash Value -- Actual cash value reimburses you for what the bicycle is actually worth given its age. A 10-year-old bicycle, for example, would be valued at the cost of a comparable bicycle minus 10 years depreciation.
  • Replacement Cost Coverage -- Replacement cost coverage reimburses you for what it would cost to replace your 10-year-old bicycle with one of like kind and quality at current cost. Replacement cost coverage costs about 10 percent more than actual cash value, but it is a good investment.

Homeowners and renters insurance policies also provide liability protection for harm you may cause to someone else or their property. If you injure someone in a bicycle accident and he or she decides to sue, you will be covered up to the limits of your policy. Your homeowners or renters insurance also include no-fault medical coverage in the event you injure someone. This coverage usually ranges from $1,000 to $5,000. If you own an expensive bicycle, you may want to consider getting an endorsement

To make filing a claim easier, the I.I.I. suggests the following:

  • Save all your receipts -- When you buy your bicycle you may purchase expensive equipment to go with it. Be sure to save your receipts. The cost of a helmet, patch kits, pumps, extra inner tubes and other essentials, not to mention that fancy new bike jersey, can add up quickly. If your bike and related items are stolen or destroyed, having receipts can help speed the claims process.
  • Add your bicycle and related items to your home inventory -- Everyone should have an up-to-date home inventory of all their personal possessions. An inventory can help you purchase the correct amount of insurance and make the claims filing process easier if there is a loss. To help you create your inventory, the I.I.I. provides free, online software at As well as listing all your possessions (and their serial numbers), the software allows you to add digital photographs, save scanned receipts And generate customized reports, which you can use when filing your claim.

Of course the best protection of all is to keep your bike safe; to help avoid theft, follow these simple rules:

  • Always lock up your bike, even if it is in your garage, an apartment stairwell, or a college dormitory.
  • Lock your bicycle to a fixed, immovable object like a parking meter or permanent bike rack. Be careful not to lock it to items that can be easily cut, broken or removed, and that the bike cannot be lifted over the top of the object to which it is locked.
  • Lock up your bicycle in a visible, well-lit area.
  • Consider using a U-lock and position the bike frame and wheels so that they take up as much of the open space within the U-portion of the lock as possible. The tighter the lock-up, the harder it is for a thief to use tools to attack the lock. Always position a U-lock so that the keyway is facing down towards the ground. Do not position the lock close to the ground as this makes it easier for a thief to break it.
  • Don’t lock up your bicycle in the same location all the time. A thief may notice the pattern and target you.
  • Consider registering your bike with the National Bike Registry.

The National Highway Safety Administration suggests that cyclists follow these seven rules:

  1. Protect Your Head -- Never ride a bike without a properly fitted helmet.
  2. Assure Bicycle Readiness -- Ride a bike that fits you and check all parts of the bicycle to make sure they are secure and working well.
  3. Learn and Follow the Rules of the Road -- Bicycles are considered vehicles on the road; therefore riders must follow the same traffic laws as drivers of motor vehicles.
  4. Act Like a Driver of a Vehicle -- Always ride with the flow of traffic, on the right side of the road, and as far to the right of the road as is practicable and safe.
  5. Be Visible -- Always assume you are not seen by others and take responsibility for making yourself visible to motorists, pedestrians and other cyclists.
  6. “Drive with Care” -- When you ride, consider yourself the driver of a vehicle and always keep safety in mind. Ride in the bike lane, if available. Take extra care when riding on a roadway. Courtesy and predictability are key to safe cycling.
  7. Stay Focused. Stay Alert -- Never wear headphones as they hinder your ability to hear traffic. Be aware of your surroundings and ride defensively.

    To learn more about bicycle safety, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

    For a related Web video, go to Bicycle Insurance Quiz.

    For a related Video News Release, go to Bicycle Safety. Reporters who would like a DVC Pro or Beta hard copy of the b-roll footage, please contact: Susan Stolov at 202-230-7040 or Susan

    For additional information on bike month activities, contact the League of American Bicyclists.

    The Insurance Information Institute is a nonprofit, communications organization supported by the insurance industry.

Nighttime driving is biggest danger for teen drivers, study says

Driving after dark is the single most-dangerous risk a teenage driver can take and is more likely to result in death than drinking, speeding or disregarding a seat belt, according to a national 10-year study of highway fatalities released Thursday.

"Everything points in the same direction for this age group, and that is to the use of cellphones behind the wheel," said Bernie Fette, one of the study's authors. "Whenever you combine the nighttime danger and the cellphone danger with inexperience, you have created a perfect storm."

That "perfect storm" took the life of Cady Anne Reynolds, a high school sophomore whose summer vacation had just begun in Omaha three years ago. Reynolds, 16, was driving home from a movie when her car was hit broadside by a vehicle driven by another 16-year-old who sped through a red light at 11 p.m.

"She almost hit two other cars before she hit our daughter," her mother, Shari Reynolds, said Wednesday. "She clearly was distracted by something, and she hit our daughter at 50 miles per hour without ever touching the brake."

The report, conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute, used federal traffic fatality data from 1999 to 2008, a period in which the number of traffic deaths declined nationwide.

Safer cars, safer highways, seat-belt laws and drunken-driving enforcement have been linked to the drop in fatalities -- all factors in darkness and daylight alike.

So why didn't nighttime traffic deaths drop, too?

Among drivers 20 and older, alcohol was a clear culprit in the proportional increase in nighttime deaths. Not so with teenagers, among whom there was a greater increase but no corresponding jump in deaths that could be attributed to drunken driving.

"We have a test to see whether someone's been drinking, but there is no test to see whether you've been on your cellphone," Fette said. "Because teenagers have grown up with these devices in their hands, they feel a comfort level and a very false sense of security. They will tell you, 'I can text with my phone still in my pocket, so I certainly can text while I'm driving.' "

The report adds to data amassed by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who has crusaded for more than a year about the dangers of texting and cellphone use.

"A quarter of all teens admit to texting behind the wheel and, in 2008, the highest proportion of distracted drivers in fatal crashes were under the age of 20," LaHood said. "Teen drivers are some of the most vulnerable drivers on the road due to inexperience, and adding cellphones to the mix only compounds the dangers. We're doing everything possible to get the message out to teens that driving while talking or texting on a cellphone is not worth the risk."

In addition to dismissing the dangers of cellphone use, Fette said, few teenagers are aware that nightfall magnifies the risk posed by their inexperience and fatigue.

By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 6, 2010

Seattle Couple Charged in Insurance Scheme

Thursday, May 6, 2010
Office of the Insurance Commissioner

The owners of a Seattle construction company have been charged with multiple counts of theft for a scheme that investigators believe bilked insurance companies out of more than $470,000.

James Philo, 59, and Cheryl-Lin Philo, 45, owners of Philo Construction Company of Seattle, each face four counts of first-degree theft and 15 counts of second-degree theft. Arraignment is scheduled for May 11, 2010 in King County Superior Court.

“Fraud and inflated claims mean higher premiums for the rest of us,” said Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “In this case, employees and former employees were concerned about what they saw going on and stepped forward to report it.”

In December 2006, a major windstorm swept across Washington, knocking down trees and causing substantial damage to a numerous homes. The Philos hired subcontractors to remove many of those trees from customers’ homes.

In March 2007, a former employee contacted Kreidler’s office, saying that Philo was submitting inflated invoices to insurers. Other workers provided information as well.

An investigation by the agency’s Special Investigations Unit, working with more than 15 insurance companies, found that the Philos had been asking their subcontractors for two invoices for each job. The Philos paid the subcontractors the smaller amount, and then submitted the larger invoice to their customers’ insurance companies for reimbursement.

The markup averaged close to 30 percent, plus another 20 percent that insurers allow for profit and overhead. For example, a $2,150 bill from a tree service company was reported to the insurer as a $2,795 job. Once profit, overhead and sales tax were added, the Philos were paid a total of $3,649.

The Philos also created a fictitious company, Pro Line Construction Resources, to act as a subcontractor when they needed to support a particularly high estimate.

The criminal charges are based on 20 cases of double-invoicing, totaling $31,000 in overcharges to insurers. All told, state investigators documented more than 60 cases of apparent fraud, totaling which they believe represents $470,000 in overcharges.

Posted by Rich R. at OIC at 2:30 PM

A Properly-Trained Fido Will Help Prevent Bites, Costly Insurance Claims

By Darrin Sanger
NW Insurance Council

Homeowners insurers encourage dog owners planning outdoor activities this spring to get their dogs properly trained to avoid unexpected attacks and costly dog-bite insurance claims.

Dog bites account for roughly $317.2 million in liability claims each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs bite nearly 4.7 million people every year, resulting in an estimated 800,000 injuries.

"There are millions of positive interactions between people and dogs every day without incident," said Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president. "Fortunately, most dog bites can be prevented through education and responsible dow ownership."

Homeowners and Renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability. Most policies provide $100,000 to $300,000 in liability coverage. If the claim exceeds the limit of a policy, the dog owner is responsible for any damages above that amount., including legal expenses.

Because some dogs are considered more dangerous and cause more severe injuries than others, some insurers have chosen not to underwrite some specific breeds. It's important to contact your local insurance agent to find out if your company insures your dog's breed. Most companies insure homeowners with dogs. Some insurers exclude certain breeds from coverage, while many focus on the individual dog's behavior.

Once your dog bites someone, however, most insurance companies recognize it as an increased risk. Your insurance company then may charge a higher premium, suggest you find the dog a new home, non-renew your Homeowners Insurance policy or exclude your dog from coverage.

"Most dogs are a positive addition to a household," Newman said. "But a dog with a history of biting will be harder to insure, at a minimum, will increase your cost for Homeowners Insurance."

NW Insurance Council offers these tips to help reduce the risk of your dog biting someone:
  • Spay or neuter your dog. Studies show that dogs are three times less likely to bite if they have been neutered.
  • Socialize your dog so that it understands how to act around people and other animals.
  • Discourage children from disturbing a dog that is eating or sleeping.
  • Play non-aggressive games such as fetch. Playing aggressive games like tug-of-war can encourage inappropriate behavior.
  • Do not approach a strange dog and avoid eye contact with a dog that appears threatening.

For more information on dog bites and insurance, visit NW Insurance Council or call (800) 664-4942.

$10,000 Award Offered to Anyone With Tips on Kenmore Jr. High Fire

By Darrin Sanger
NW Insurance Council
May 6, 2010

NW Insurance Council and Arson Alarm Foundation are offering an award of up to $10,000 to anyone with information that leads to the arrest of those responsible for setting fire to Kenmore Junior High School, April 26.

The fire was started underneath an outdoor walkway and caused approximately $10,000 in damage.

Anyone with information regrarding this deliberately-set fire is urged to call the Arson Hotline at (800) 55-ARSON or contact local authorities. Callers may remain anonymous and could be eligible for an award up to $10,000.

Arson can have a devastating effect on a community. Arson threatens innocent citizens and puts firefighters at needless risk. Businesses that are burned and are forced to close can cause a significant economic burden, while damage to homes, businesses and property can cause insurance rates to rise.

We need your help!

Arson is a very difficult crime to solve because much of the evidence is consumed in the fire. In fact, only 18 percent of arson cases result in conviction, according FBI statistics. Studies also show that nearly half of all arson fires involve children under the age of 18.

If you have any information about this arson or any suspicious fires, call the Arson Hotline at (800) 55-ARSON.

The foundation has awarded more than $100,000 to Washington citizens over the past decade.

Spring Windstorm Creates Whirl of Insurance Concerns

By Darrin Sanger
NW Insurance Council
May 5, 2010

Monday's windstorm that ripped through Washington, Oregon and Idaho left a path of devastation for many across the region.

As many homeowners, business owners and renters begin the cleanup and repair process, some are left wondering what's covered and what's not under their insurance policies.

Standard Homeowners and Business insurance policies cover damage caused by wind or wind-driven objects up to the limits of the policy and less a deductible. Renters Insurance policies only cover damage to personal possessions up to the limits of the policy. A deductible normally applies.

Vehicles damaged by fallen trees or wind-damaged objects are covered if the owner has optional Comprehensive Coverage in the Auto Insurance policy, less a deductible. Covered perils are listed in the policy. Be sure to review the exclusions.

If the windstorm caused damage to your home, business or property, call your insurance agent or company and file an insurance claim immediately. Filing a claim quickly allows your insurance adjuster to assess the damage sooner.

After you have filed a claim, here are some simple steps you can take to help you get through the claims process as quickly as possible:
  1. Document the damage and take pictures of personal property that has been damaged.
  2. If safe to do so, make temporary repairs to prevent further loss from rain or wind. Keep receipts for reimbursement.
  3. Use only licensed, reputable building contractors. Be sure they have the proper building permits.
  4. Avoid contractors who ask for a large deposit up front or bids that are remarkably low. This may indicate a willingness to cut corners or to leave work unfinished.
  5. Don't pay a lot for repairs unless authorized by your insurance adjuster. You could get stuck with the bill if the repairs are deemed excessive.
  6. Don't discard anything that is damaged until it is examined by your adjuster. You could miss out on important coverage for an item.
  7. If your home was damaged by a tree that fell from a neighbor's property, your insurance will cover the damage. In order for your neighbor's insurance to cover the damage, you'll need to demonstrate that your neighbor was negligent or that the tree was at risk to falling before the loss (ex: dead, diseased).
You can get more information on protecting your home from wind and other natural disasters by visiting or calling NW Insurance Council at (800) 664-4942.