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Friday, June 19, 2009

Remember the laws of physics ...

Are you in the market for a new car? In an effort to go green and leave a smaller carbon footprint, many people are thinking about buying mini-cars. There are legitimate reasons for purchasing small cars — they’re often more affordable and they use less gas. But, according to Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), “Though much safer than they were a few years ago, mini-cars as a group do a comparatively poor job of protecting people in crashes, simply because they’re smaller and lighter.”1

Although the newest small vehicles meet today’s strict safety standards, even the safest are governed by the laws of physics, which rule in favor of bigger, heavier vehicles, even in single-vehicle crashes.

Whether you’re shopping for a used or new car, it’s important to spend time making sure it’s safe. Here are some things to look for when choosing a new car:

Front and side curtain air bags
Telescoping steering wheel
Adjustable head restraints that can be locked into place
Seatbelts that engage quickly and with little slack
Daytime running lights
Antilock brakes
Anti-theft systems
Electronic stability control

Always take a test drive and try to do it in the evening so you can check the visibility provided by the headlights.

Before you jump into a super-high efficiency mini, consider your options and call me. I will give you the latest information on vehicle safety and what discounts you may be eligible for based on vehicle safety features. Share this with your friends and family before they make a new-car buying decision that might cost them dearly.


The personal liability policy

What would you do if ...

a mishap occurred and caused damage or injuries beyond the terms of your Homeowners or Auto insurance?
you found yourself on the wrong end of a multi-million dollar lawsuit?

Naturally, most people don’t expect the unthinkable to happen to them — but sometimes it does.

Who can I sue?
We’ve all seen the ads: “Have you been injured? You may be entitled to a cash award!” It’s sad but true — we live in a very litigious, lawsuit-happy society. And judges and juries are handing down larger monetary awards than ever before. Still, individuals and businesses alike must continue to take risks in order to thrive and grow. Although there’s no way to completely avoid the possibility of being sued, there is a way to help reduce the potential impact of a devastating lawsuit: personal liability coverage.

Get under the umbrella
Farmers Personal Liability Umbrella insurance supplements the liability coverage you already have through your Homeowners or Auto insurance and provides an extra layer of protection through increased or excess coverage limits. The umbrella policy kicks in when you reach the limit on your underlying liability coverage. It also will cover you for libel and slander. Most importantly, the cost of your legal defense is provided for a covered loss.

Life is uncertain — plan for it
You worked hard to accumulate your assets — don’t forget to protect them. You never know when the unexpected might ruin not just your day but also your well-laid financial plans for the future. Call me for more information and share this with a friend or family member. You just might make their day!

Everybody in the pool

Summer is upon us and many of us are spending more time outdoors with friends or family — barbecuing, swimming and generally enjoying the mild weather. Though this may be the last thing on your mind, it’s a fact that a swimming pool presents risks, not only to your own family and friends, but also to uninvited guests, particularly children.

It takes only a few minutes and less than two inches of water for a small child to drown, and it may all happen silently — in the time it takes to answer the telephone.1

Pool safety
If you own a pool, make it your priority to establish and enforce pool safety rules, which may help prevent accidents and reduce your liability exposure. Here are some safety rules to consider:

Install a pool alarm that sounds a warning if a child falls into the water. If you don’t have an alarm, install a fence around your pool area to prevent people from using the pool without your knowledge
Never leave small children unsupervised in or around the pool — not even for one minute
Make sure appropriate drain covers are in place to protect children from suction that may prevent them from reaching the surface
Be sure all pool users know how to swim
Don’t swim alone or allow others to do so
Don’t allow anyone who has been drinking alcohol to get in the pool
Don’t swim if you are tired
Use plastic instead of glass dishes and receptacles
Keep radios, CD and DVD players, blow dryers and other electrical devices away from the pool
Cover your pool securely during the off-season

No matter how careful we are, accidents still can happen — so prepare for the unexpected. Call me and together we can make sure you are adequately covered so you and your family can enjoy your summer.

State Farm to increase auto insurance rates

State Farm Mutual customers will see auto insurance rates climb an average 3 percent statewide later this summer.

The new rates will be implemented Aug. 3 for new and existing policies.

In Harris County, the average increase ranges from 1.9 percent to 5.5 percent, with those in central Harris County seeing the higher end of the hike.

The state’s largest home and auto insurer needs the higher rates because of the rising costs of repairs, materials and other items claims cover, Kevin Davis, a State Farm spokesman said in an e-mail.

“This rate adjustment is necessary for State Farm to remain competitive while absorbing rising costs and maintaining its level of risk,” he wrote.

He noted that the company cut Texas auto rates by nearly $350 million annually from 2004 to 2007 and returned a $91 million dividend to auto policyholders in March 2007.

State Farm, with more than 3 million policyholders in Texas, last increased rates in October, when customers saw a statewide average rise of 2.8 percent.

The increase comes as the insurer awaits a ruling on a home insurance rate case that dates back about six years.

In 2003, the insurance department ordered State Farm and other home insurers to reduce premiums regulators considered excessive.

State Farm refused to cut its rate the 12 percent ordered and appealed in district court, which ruled in favor of the insurer.

The Insurance Department appealed, and the appeals court sent the case back for a hearing before the insurance commissioner. It’s unclear when the commissioner will make a ruling.

The ongoing case has allowed the company to avoid cutting what regulators consider excessive rates and refund an estimated $250 million plus interest.

The Office of Public Insurance Counsel, which represents consumers before the insurance commissioner, estimates the refunds owed are closer to $785 million plus interest. State Farm maintains its rates have always been fair, reasonable and competitive. The company has essentially operated at a rate deficit in recent years, Davis said.

Also, another hurricane season has begun, which underscores the seriousness of this rate decision, he added.

State Farm Could Owe $0 to $1 Billion to Texas Consumers

June 16, 2009

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The years-long struggle between the State of Texas and State Farm Insurance Company over homeowners insurance overcharges may be coming to a close soon, as Texas Insurance Commissioner Mike Geesling is expected to rule on the case this summer.

Pick a dollar amount between zero and 1 billion. Depending on whom you ask, that's what State Farm Insurance owes its Texas customers for overcharging on homeowner policies dating to 2003.

The Office of Public Insurance Counsel, the state's consumer advocate for insurance, says in documents filed this month that Texas' largest property insurer owes policyholders $785 million plus interest, or nearly $1 billion. State Farm has 1.2 million customers in Texas.

The Texas Department of Insurance calculates the overcharges at about $250 million, plus nearly $100 million more in interest.

State Farm says it owes customers nothing, that it didn't overcharge its customers, and that its rates have always been fair and competitive. The dispute dates to 2003 when Texas ordered State Farm and other companies to reduced premiums the state considered excessive.

Geeslin will have to decide who is right, a ruling that could have significant political implications in next year's campaigns. Geeslin, an appointee of Gov. Rick Perry who held hearings on the case in the spring, is expected to rule this summer.

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is challenging Perry for the Republican nomination for governor, has indicated that she will make insurance rates a major part of her campaign.

"It's a very big deal, no doubt about it," Alex Winslow of Texas Watch, a consumer group active in insurance issues, told The Dallas Morning News. "There are now real questions about whether State Farm will have to give back every penny they owe or whether the commissioner will let them off and order them to pay only pennies on the dollar."

Winslow said any decision by Geeslin that is short of the full billion will be "a slap in the face" for State Farm policyholders. "State Farm should not be allowed to benefit financially in any way from their overcharges, including investment earnings off those overcharges," he added.

State Farm said in its filings that it is not responsible for any refunds.

"Our position has never changed. Our rates have always been fair and reasonable," said Kevin Davis, a spokesman for the company.

The rate dispute began after a massive overhaul of insurance law by the Legislature that year in 2003, which put home insurance rates under state control after a tumultuous period of record premium hikes. The increases were triggered by massive mold and water damage claims across the state.

State Farm was told to cut its rates 12 percent and responded by suing the state in a case that remains unresolved.

In the latest ruling, Geeslin was told to convene a hearing on the allegations of overcharging and hear from the company, the insurance department and the Office of Public Insurance Counsel.

Geeslin is expected to order some refunds though probably less than the $1 billion called for by the public insurance counsel.

A figure that large "would make the largest Texas homeowners insurer insolvent," while the department's proposal would undermine the company's financial condition for several years, State Farm attorney Susan Conway wrote in a document filed this month.

During the hearing in the case, State Farm attorneys said the insurer is still paying off a $1 billion loan that it had to take out from its parent company to stave off bankruptcy six years ago, when mold claims were at their peak.

Information from The Dallas Morning News:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Nationwide to drop Houston policies

Nationwide Property and Casualty Insurance won’t renew 5,300 Houston-area home insurance policies starting Sept. 17, the company said Friday.

The majority of those customers are in Harris County.

“Nationwide continually reviews its business strategy with the goals of maintaining long-term viability for its customers, and the potential for ongoing hurricane activity is there,” said Mike Switzer, a spokesman for the insurer.

The company is positioning itself as experts predict an increased chance of catastrophic damage in the future, he said.

“We are making changes to reflect these realities,” he said.

The historical data used to project future losses, however, pre-dated Hurricane Ike, he said.

Nationwide, which has 180,000 home insurance policyholders statewide, will notify affected customers 90 days before their policy’s expiration, he said.

Switzer encouraged customers to call their agents, who are working to place customers with other companies.

On Feb. 17, the insurer started hiking rates an average of 8 percent as policies came up for renewal.

The pullback signals a deeper withdrawal from the coast for the company.

Fearing stronger and costlier storms, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. in May 2007 dropped windstorm coverage for about 1,000 policyholders. About 600 of those policies were in Galveston County.

The company also decided then not to renew about 870 policies on barrier islands, peninsulas less than two miles across, and property on the mainland within about a half mile of the Gulf of Mexico or its bays.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Oak Forest Elementary School

David Lorms, Farmers Insurance Agent, donated $500 to Oak Forest Elementary School to fund a Perfect Attendance program. Students with Perfect Attendance for the semester had their names placed in a drawing that took place on May 27, 2009. Pictured are the winners, (Front) Andy Turcios and Ja’Terria Southwell, along with Scott Pollack, Principal, David Lorms, and Rachel Pate, Assistant Principal.

Stevens Elementary Rewards Perfect Attendance

Back row: David Lorms, Johnny Herrera, Lucy Anderson
Middle row: Wendy Tello, Oscar Vela, Angel Ali Martinez, Jazmin Montoya, Gilberto Robledo
Front row: Maria Rangel, Kiara Rios, Alfonso Bustamante, Marco Leon, Ethan Zamarrippa

With generous support provided by Farmers Insurance Agent, David Lorms, Stevens Elementary awarded prizes to students with perfect attendance. Students with perfect attendance for the last nine weeks participated in a drawing variety of prizes. David Lorms, our community business partner, came to Stevens for the final drawing and gave each child a handshake and a job well done!