Windstorm: Is Your Home, Car or Business Covered by Your Insurance?

High winds in the Puget Sound region have toppled trees and cut power to some, putting homes, businesses and vehicles at risk of wind damage.

While high-wind warnings remain in effect through today, it's important for homeowners, renters and business owners to be prepared and understand what is and what is not protected against damage caused by wind.

"Homeowners and Business Insurance policies cover wind damage to the structure of your home or business and your belongings," said Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president. "Wind damage to vehicles from falling trees or other wind-driven objects and damage from landslide is covered if you have optional Comprehensive Coverage in your Auto Policy."

NW Insurance Council offers the following coverage facts for wind damage.

What's typically covered:
Your Home

  • Damage to your home from wind and falling trees.
  • Removal of trees that have fallen on buildings.
  • Damaged personal property (both home and renters) inside a damaged building.
  • If you can't occupy your primary residence due to storm damage, additional living expenses such as increased housing costs, extra food costs, furniture rental, and storage fees.
  • Costs for reasonable temporary repairs to prevent further damage to the building or contents.

Your Vehicle

  • Damage caused by wind and falling trees - if you purchased optional Comprehensive Coverage.
    Damage caused by landslide is also covered under the Comprehensive Coverage portion of your policy.

What's typically not covered:
Your Home

  • Removal of trees that have fallen in your yard without damaging a building.
    Upgrades that weren't part of your home before the storm.
    Damage from landslides.

Your Vehicle

  • Damage to your vehicle if you don't have Comprehensive Coverage.

What to do if your home or vehicle has been damaged:

  • Document damage and take pictures.
  • If safe to do so, make temporary repairs to prevent further loss from rain or wind. Save receipts for reimbursement.
  • If your home or property is damaged by a windstorm, contact your insurance agent or company to file a claim immediately. Filing a claim quickly enables your insurance company to get to you sooner.
  • Use only licensed, reputable building contractors and be sure they get the proper building permits.

What to avoid if your home or vehicle has been damaged:

  • 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 leave work unfinished.
  • Don't pay a lot for temporary repairs unless authorized by your insurance adjuster. You could get stuck with the bill if the repairs are deemed excessive.
  • Don't discard anything that is damaged until it has been examined by your adjuster. You could miss out on coverage for that item.

Housing Market Slump Means More Americans Are Renting Homes; I.I.I. Counsels Renters to Make Sure They Have the Proper Insurance

NEW YORK, November 15, 2010 — With the housing market in a slump, foreclosures rising and a glut of investor-owned homes hitting the rental market, more people are choosing to rent than to buy. Renters, however, just like homeowners, need to make sure they are properly insured, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

The U.S. Census Bureau noted that in the second quarter of 2010, 37.1 million housing units were occupied by renters, up by more than 800,000 units from the same period the previous year and up by 8.2 percent, from 34.3 million units, in 2006.

A survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the National Apartment Association in May 2010 found that 76 percent of those surveyed now believe that renting is a better option than buying in the current real estate market, up from 71 percent in 2008.

“If you rent a house or apartment and think that your landlord is financially responsible when there is a fire, theft or other catastrophe—think again,” warned Loretta Worters, vice president with the I.I.I. “Your landlord may have insurance to protect the building you are living in. But your landlord’s policy won’t replace your personal possessions or pay for your living expenses while the building is being repaired. The only way to protect yourself financially against disasters is to buy a renters insurance policy,” she added.

While more people are renting, nearly half do not purchase renters insurance. A recent Insurance Research Council poll found that 96 percent of homeowners had homeowners insurance while only 43 percent of renters had renters insurance.

Renters Insurance, sometimes referred to as tenants insurance, includes three basic types of protection:
  1. Personal Possessions
  2. Liability
  3. Additional Living Expenses

1. Personal Possessions
Standard renters insurance protects your personal belongings against damage from fire, smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, explosion, windstorm, water and other disasters listed in the policy. Floods and earthquakes are not covered. Flood insurance is available through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from some private insurance companies.

Earthquake coverage can be purchased as an endorsement or a separate earthquake policy. In California, coverage is also available from the California Earthquake Authority.

To decide how much renters insurance to buy, you need to know the value of all your personal possessions—including furniture, clothing, electronics, appliances, kitchen utensils and even towels and bedding. The easiest way to figure this out is to create a home inventory, a detailed list of all of your personal possessions and their estimated value. To help make this task easier, the Insurance Information Institute offers free, Web-based software, available at An up-to-date home inventory will also make filing an insurance claim faster and easier.

2. Liability
Standard renters insurance policies also provide liability protection against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you or your family members may cause to other people. It also pays for damage your pets cause.

The liability portion of a renters policy pays for both the cost of defending you in court and for court awards, up to the limit of the policy. Liability limits generally start at about $100,000. Some experts recommend that you buy at least $300,000 worth of protection. You can also buy an Umbrella or Excess Liability policy, which provides higher limits and broader coverage. Generally, umbrella policies cost $200 to $350 a year for an extra $1 million of liability protection.

Your policy also provides No-Fault Medical coverage. If visitors are injured in your home, you can submit their medical bills directly to your insurance company. You can generally get $1,000 to $5,000 worth of this coverage. It does not, however, pay medical bills for your own family or your pets.

3. Additional Living Expenses
Many people are pleasantly surprised to learn that Additional Living Expense (ALE) coverage is included in a renters insurance policy. If the home or apartment you are renting is damaged or destroyed due to a disaster listed in your policy and you need to live elsewhere while it is being repaired or rebuilt, renters insurance will cover your additional living expenses—namely the difference between your regular living expenses and the additional costs incurred by having to live away from your home, such as hotel bills, temporary rentals, restaurant meals, etc.

There are two types of renters insurance policies for your possessions:
Actual Cash Value pays to replace your possessions minus an amount for depreciation (the reduction in the value of items due to age and use) up to the limit of your policy.
Replacement Cost pays the full cost of replacing your possessions (with no deduction for depreciation), up to the limit of your policy. The price of Replacement Cost coverage is about 10 percent more than Actual Cash Value coverage, but can be well worth the additional cost.

A standard renters policy offers only limited coverage for items such as jewelry, silver, furs, etc. If you own property that exceeds these limits, it is recommended that you supplement your policy with a floater. A floater is a separate policy that provides additional insurance for your valuables and covers them for perils not included in your policy such as accidental loss.

How to Buy Renters Insurance
Renters insurance is easy to get, and there are many insurance companies to choose from. Insurers that offer homeowners insurance generally also sell renters insurance. In fact, a renters insurance policy and a homeowners insurance policy are almost identical. The main difference is that a renters policy does not include coverage for the building, since that is the responsibility of the landlord.

Comparison Shop
Because renters insurance covers only the value of your belongings, not the physical building, the premium is relatively inexpensive—usually around $200-$250 annually, depending on where you live and the amount of insurance you purchase. Still prices vary from company to company, so it pays to shop around. Get at least three price quotes. You can call companies directly or get quotes from the Internet. Your state insurance department may also provide information about prices.

Get quotes from different types of insurance companies. Some insurers sell through their own agents. These agencies have the same name as the insurance company. Some sell through independent agents, who offer policies from several insurance companies. Others don’t use agents at all but sell directly to consumers over the phone or via the Internet.

But don’t shop by price alone. Select a company based on service. Ask friends and relatives for their recommendations. Look for an agent or company representative who takes the time to answer your questions. Remember, you will be dealing with this person if you have an accident or other emergency.

Ask Your Insurer How You Can Save Money
There are several ways to save money on premiums. Consider taking a higher deductible (the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance company starts to pay a claim). The higher your deductible, the more money you save on your premium. A deductible of at least $500 may save you 10 percent off the price of your policy. If you can afford to raise it to $1,000, you may get as much as 25 percent off your premium. However, it is also important to keep in mind that you will be paying the deductible each time you file a claim.

Insurance companies often offer discounts on renters insurance if you have another policy with them such as for your car or business. You can also get discounts if your apartment has a security system, smoke detectors or deadbolt locks. More discounts might be available depending on your age and whether or not you smoke.

Insurance Information Institute

Study Says Drowsy Drivers Are Involved in 17% of Fatal Crashes

By Tanya Mohn/NY Times

Driving while drowsy and falling asleep at the wheel are responsible for more deadly crashes than previously thought, according to a new study released on Monday.

An estimated one in six fatal crashes — nearly 17 percent — involves a drowsy driver, which is about four to five times higher than previous studies have found. And drowsy drivers are involved in one in eight crashes that result in serious injury, the report found.

“People need to be honest with themselves, be aware of the symptoms and recognize the dangers of driving while drowsy,” said Peter Kissinger, president and chief executive of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a nonprofit research and educational organization that conducted the study.

Being sleep-deprived decreases awareness, slows reaction time and impairs judgment, similar to the impact of drugs or alcohol, said Mr. Kissinger. “People often overestimate their ability to deal with it,” he said.

The study was based on the AAA Foundation’s 2010 Traffic Safety Culture Index, a nationwide telephone survey of 2,000 residents in the United States, conducted earlier this year by Abt SRBI Inc., and new in-depth analysis of crash data from 1999 to 2008 from a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database.

The report found that 41 percent of respondents admitted to falling asleep or nodding off while driving at some point in their lives. One in 10 acknowledged doing so in the past year. More than a quarter (27 percent) of those surveyed admitted that in the previous month they drove despite being so tired that they had difficulty keeping their eyes open.

“That’s just a really scary scenario,” Mr. Kissinger said.

The study is being released in support of Drowsy Driving Prevention Week (Nov. 8 to 15), sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation.

Thomas J. Balkin, a sleep researcher and chairman of the National Sleep Foundation, said sleep-related crashes were likely to be severe. People “tend to have worse crashes because they didn’t do anything to mitigate the crash,” like hitting the brakes or steering away from a collision.

Dr. Balkin said there is some suggestion that people are more sleep deprived than 30 to 40 years ago, when the average amount of sleep was about eight hours a night. Today, it is about seven hours. “People on the lower end, who get about five to six hours a night, pose a danger to themselves and others,” he said.

“People think that by rolling down the window or turning up the radio they will be able to offset drowsiness and make it to where they are going,” he said. “But they lose touch. When we’re sleepy, we know we’re sleepy, but the process of actually falling asleep, we’re not good at identifying that.”

It’s something Rusty Burris, 38, of Columbia, Mo., wished that he had paid more attention to.

“When your body reaches its breaking point, you have no control over it. You’ve got to stop,” said Mr. Burris, who at age 18 fell asleep at the wheel about a mile from home after having been awake for more than 36 hours. Mr. Burris was paralyzed from the chest down when his car hit a driveway embankment and flipped over.

“It doesn’t matter how many times you do it and get away with it,” he said. “It’s that one time you don’t. You pay for it for the rest of your life.”

Tips to remain alert and identify symptoms, and the full report can be seen at

See full story

Insurance Good For Financial Security, Great For Washington's Economy

Insurance provides financial security for millions of Washington residents and makes a major contribution to the economy across the Northwest. At the most fundamental level, insurance is the foundation for economic interaction and nearly all commerce.

"Insurance makes it possible to buy a car or a home, start a small business and build communities, said Karl Newman, president, NW Insurance Council. "Insurance also provides quality employment opportunities to thousands of Washingtonians."

Among businesses, insurance companies are the second highest contributor to the Washington State General Fund. The insurance industry contributed more than $5.2 billion to the Washington State gross state product (GSP) in 2007, accounting for two percent of the state GSP.

Insurance companies headquartered both here and in other states, employed 50,727 Washington residents in 2007 and brought more than $3.2 billion in payroll income into state and local economies, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In 2008, insurers paid more than $415 million in premium taxes to Washington State government, including primary funding for the State Fire Marshal's Office.

"Insurers help fuel Washington's economy," said Newman. "Insurance companies doing business in Washington help make state and local projects a reality by purchasing a significant number of municipal bonds."

Insurer premium taxes and bond investments directly finance construction and maintenance of critical public services such as roads and bridges, schools and affordable housing.

Property & Casualty (P&C) insurers purchased $14.6 billion in Washington municipal bonds in 2005. That equals 31percent of outstanding government debt throughout the state. Washington was fifth among all states in municipal bond investments by P&C insurers, despite ranking only 18th in the nation in total P&C premium volume.

Only Texas, California, New York, and Illinois ranked higher than Washington. In fact, Washington led all 50 states in the ratio of municipal bond investments to direct written premiums, with P&C insurers investing 1.6 times more in municipal bonds than they collected in premiums in the state ($13.7 billion to $8.6 billion respectively for 2005, according to A.M. Best data).

Property/casualty insurance companies doing business in Washington totaled $9.1 billion in direct premiums written. In addition, life/health insurers totaled nearly $10.7 billion (including life insurance, annuities, accident and health insurance, deposit type funds and other considerations).

"Perhaps most importantly, insurance companies are there when policyholders need them most - helping Northwest residents recover from accidents, illnesses and other personal and commercial insured losses," Newman said.

In 2008, P&C insurers paid $5.0 billion to Washington residents and businesses, including $2.2 billion for auto losses, $1.9 billion for commercial losses and more than $724 million for homeowners' claims. Life insurance claims and befits payouts in Washington totaled $7.8 billion in 2008.

Insurance claim payments support local businesses, enabling them to provide jobs and pay taxes that support the local economy.

These businesses include the auto parts and repair industries, the building construction and supply industries, health care services and legal services.

For more on how insurance companies support local and state economies, check out
"A Firm Foundation: How Insurance Supports the Washington State Economy or contact NW Insurance Council at (800) 664-4941.

Sources: American Insurance Association, A.M. Best, Insurance Information Institute and U.S. Census Bureau.

Now's the Time to Protect Your Home From Old Man Winter

Freezing temperatures, ice, snow and wind can devastate homes and businesses if they are not properly winterized. Don’t wait for temperatures to dip below freezing before you take action. Now is the time to protect your home from Old Man Winter.

Winter storms are the third-largest cause of property loss in America, resulting in about $1.2 billion in insured losses annually, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Winter weather-related losses such as burst pipes, wind damage, ice dams, frozen gutters and damage caused by the weight of ice or snow are covered under standard Homeowners Insurance policies. Damage caused by flooding is specifically excluded under standard home and business insurance policies. Flood Insurance can be purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program.

By winterizing your home or business you also can eliminate many inconveniences caused by weather-related losses.

“Even when you have insurance, the hassle of waiting for your home to be repaired can be a dark cloud over your plans,” said Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president. “It takes some work, but it’s definitely worth the effort to winterize your home.”

Shut the door on Old Man Winter and protect your home or business by following these easy, do-it-yourself tips:
  • Be disaster ready. Learn how you can protect your home and family from natural disasters that are common to your region. Visit for more information.
  • Maintain gutters. Remove leaves, pinecones, sticks and other debris from gutters so melting snow and ice can flow freely. This can prevent ice damming, which can push melting water under the roofing and into your attic. You may also consider installing gutter guards. Available at most hardware stores, gutter guards are screens that prevent debris from entering the gutter and blocking drainpipes.
  • Trim trees and remove dead branches. Ice, snow and wind can cause weak trees or branches to break – damaging your home or car.
  • Check insulation. Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. If too much heat escapes through the attic, it can cause snow or ice to melt on the roof. The water will re-freeze, allowing more snow and ice to build up. This can result in a collapsed roof.
  • Prevent frozen pipes. Wrap pipes with pipe insulation or heating tape and insulate unfinished rooms such as garages that have exposed pipes. Also, check for cracks and leaks. Repair them immediately to prevent much costlier repairs.
  • Keep your house warm. The temperature in the home should be at least 65 degrees. The air inside the walls where pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A room temperature below 65 will not keep pipes from freezing.
  • Get to know your plumbing. Learn how to shut off the water and know where your home’s pipes are located. If pipes freeze, you may be able to prevent the pipes from bursting by taking immediate action. Quickly shut off the water and direct your plumber to the problem.
For more information on winterizing your home, or for a free copy of Surviving Severe Cold Weather, contact NW Insurance Council at (800) 664-4942.