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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Accident on private property who is at fault?

Accident on private property who is at fault?

Question: My father had a accident in Houston, Tx when he was just pulling out of burger king drive thru some man was not paying attention and side swiped my father on the drivers side of the car, there is damage to our vehicle and none to his. We have a claim number and everything but now after the information was exchanged he is calling us back saying that he will not pay the damages because it was on private property.... Who is at fault and is there any way that we can take them to court since they drove off and we were unable to file a police report?

Asked by nikyo_kurasaki 6 hours ago

Answer: The fact that the accident happened on private property doesn't denote fault or have anything to do with a liability decision. Most times, police will not come out to a scene of an accident if it happens on private property so "blue forms" should always be filled out after the fact. This form is a filing of the accident with the police, after the fact. You can still do this filing. The problem with not having police come to the scene and document the accident, is that people can change their stories and it ends up being one person's word against another. If this happenes, it could be hard to collect from the other person and Insurance companies will probably side with their own insured. Go ahead and place a claim with the insurance comany of the other party for a decision.
To prevent this situation, always call the police. They will usually ask if someone is hurt and if there is no injury, they will not come to the scene. Be sure to file a blue form report anyway, take lots of pictures of the scene, damages to each vehicle, get the names and contact information from witnesses, and exchange insurance information. If you still can't collect from the other party or their insurance company, you can take them to small claims court. If all else fails, file for repair coverage with your own company and they will try to recover their money plus your deductible, if there is enough evidence to support your case.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Texas Financial Responsibility Law: Minimum Auto Liability Insurance Limits have Increased

(October 2010)

Texas law requires people who drive in Texas to be able to pay for the auto accidents they cause. Most drivers do this by buying automobile liability insurance.

Liability insurance pays to repair or replace the other driver’s car and pays other people’s medical expenses. It does not pay to repair or replace your car or for your injuries.

The minimum coverage amount required by the state’s financial responsibility law is $25,000 for each injured person, up to a total of $50,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage.

The limits will increase on January 1, 2011, to $30,000 for each injured person, up to a total of $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage per accident.

Financial Responsibility
Financial responsibility is the ability to pay for any accidents you cause. The state’s Transportation Code lists various ways for drivers to establish financial responsibility. Most drivers do this by buying automobile liability insurance.

Violating the Law
There are severe penalties for violating the state’s financial responsibility law. A first conviction will result in a fine between $175 and $350. Subsequent convictions could result in fines of $350 to $1,000, suspension of your driver’s license, and impoundment of your automobile.

When you obtain an auto insurance policy, your insurance company will send you a proof-of-insurance card. You will need this card to show proof of insurance when you
are asked for it by a law enforcement officer have an accident register your car or renew its registration obtain or renew your driver’s license get your car inspected.

TexasSure is a vehicle insurance verification system that allows law enforcement, county tax officials, and vehicle inspectors to confirm whether a vehicle in Texas has personal auto liability insurance coverage. This means, for example, that a law enforcement officer can electronically confirm during a traffic stop whether a registered vehicle has insurance in effect.

TexasSure will help reduce the number of uninsured vehicles in Texas. An estimated $4 million vehicles – one in five – on Texas roads are uninsured. The program should also prevent motorists from avoiding the law by using counterfeit proof of insurance cards or canceling cards after they’re used for a registration or inspection.

For more information, visit the TexasSure website

Obtaining Auto Insurance
Contact an insurance company or agent in your area to buy auto insurance. In addition to liability insurance required by law, you can also purchase additional coverages to cover yourself and your property.

Rates vary widely among companies, so it pays to shop around. Make sure you get quotes from several companies and agents before you buy.

The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) provides several helpful publications and web resources to help you shop:

Texas has a Consumer Bill of Rights for auto insurance. Your insurance company must send you a copy with your policy. Read it to understand your rights and responsibilities under Texas law.

Having Trouble Finding Insurance
If a company turns you down, keep shopping. Companies have different criteria for accepting drivers for coverage.

If you’ve been rejected by two insurance companies, you might be able to buy basic liability insurance through the Texas Automobile Insurance Plan Association (TAIPA). TAIPA doesn’t provide collision or comprehensive coverage or higher liability limits than the law requires. You can add personal injury protection and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

For TAIPA coverage, contact an agent who will submit your application to TAIPA. TAIPA will then assign you a company to collect your premium and pay your claim.

A licensed insurance agent must submit your application to TAIPA. TAIPA will assign you a company that will collect your premium and pay your claims. The company will provide coverage for up to three years. Call TAIPA for more information,

444-4441 in Austin

Help with an Insurance Complaint
If you have an insurance-related complaint, first try to resolve the problem with the company. Complaints often result from misunderstandings and can be worked out by discussing your issues with the company. Most companies in Texas have toll-free numbers for customer assistance. Read your policy to find out how to contact the company.

Texas has a Consumer Bill of Rights for auto insurance. Your insurance company must send you a copy with your policy. Read it to understand your rights under Texas law.

If you're unable to resolve your issue by talking with the company, file a complaint with TDI.

Read about TDI’s consumer complaints process in the Helping You With Your Insurance Complaint publication. You may also e-mail, mail, or fax your complaint along with copies of your supporting documents to

Texas Department of Insurance
Consumer Protection Program (MC 111-1A)
P.O. Box 149091
Austin, TX 78714-9091
Fax: 512-475-1771

For More Information or Assistance
For answers to general insurance questions or for information on filing an insurance-related complaint, call the Consumer Help Line between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Central time, Monday-Friday, or visit our website

463-6515 in Austin

For printed copies of consumer publications, call the 24-hour Publications Order Line

1-800-599-SHOP (7467)
305-7211 in Austin

Help us prevent insurance fraud. To report suspected fraud, call our toll-free Fraud Hot Line


To report suspected arson or suspicious activity involving fires, call the State Fire Marshal’s 24-hour Arson Hot Line

1-877-4FIRE45 (434-7345)

The information in this publication is current as of the revision date. Changes in laws and agency administrative rules made after the revision date may affect the content. View current information on our website. TDI distributes this publication for educational purposes only. This publication is not an endorsement by TDI of any service, product, or company.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Oak Forest Elementary School Fall Festival

Farmers Agent, David Lorms, and Customer Service Representatives Rebeccas Molnar and Weldon Anderson participated at the Oak Forest Elementary School Fall Festival on November 13th. Information on Home, Driving and Bicycle safety was distributed as well as Child Identification Kits.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Durnham Elementary School Fall Festival 2010

On Saturday October 30, 2010, Farmers Agent David Lorms participated at the Durnham Elementary School Fall Festival, handing out driving, bicycle and home safey information, along with fire and educational coloring books. In addition, Child Protection Kits were distributed to help parents keep vital information on their children in one place should the child go missing. Local police were on hand to make fingerprints in the kits as well.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Renters Insurance Coverage

Standard Coverage Optional Coverages
At Farmers we realize that your belongings are just as important as a homeowner's belongings. Our renters policy provides coverage for your household contents and personal belongings.

Furthermore, in the event someone is injured at your place, you could be held legally liable for the injury. Our renters policy provides personal liability coverage should this ever occur.

As a Farmers customer you have access to HelpPoint, a unique claims service that has been recognized by JD Power three years in a row for providing an "outstanding customer service experience." You can call HelpPoint® for immediate assistance, 24/7, free of charge.

Best of all, you get a Farmers agent who can answer your questions about the policy and its coverages, discounts you may qualify for and deductibles you may choose. Most importantly, your Farmers agent can help you choose the coverage you want with flexible payment terms you can live with.

Standard Coverage:
Your Possessions
You choose the amount of coverage based on the property you own.
Personal property is covered anywhere in the world.
Coverage is on a named-peril basis, which means that only losses resulting from causes listed in the policy are covered (subject to exclusions).

Pays when you're legally liable for someone else's bodily injury or property damage resulting from an accident, negligent acts by you or qualified household members (on or off premises) and the acts of your pets.
Includes costs to resolve claims or defend lawsuits brought against you.

Medical Payments
Pays medical costs for people injured at your residence (other than residents of your household), regardless of liability.

Additional Living Expenses
Covers additional living expenses if a covered loss makes your living quarters uninhabitable. Coverage is based on a percentage of the amount of insurance you choose for your personal property.

Optional Coverage:
Scheduled and unscheduled coverage of important valuables is available.

Replacement CostContents replacement cost is available to pay for the cost of repairing or replacing lost or damaged items without deducting for their depreciation.

Identity ShieldSMState-of-the-art assistance in the resolution of identity theft events, advocacy services relating to the prevention of identity theft and replacement of certain important documents.

Friday, October 15, 2010

October 4, 2010

Letter to the Editor
The Wall Street Journal
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY, 10036

The Complete Picture

Shift to Wealthier Clientele Puts Life Insurers in a Bind (Oct. 4, 2010) It is true, wealthier Americans spend more on life insurance than middle-income Americans – they generally need more coverage and therefore pay higher premiums. Many experts recommend buying enough life insurance to cover six times salary so the family can meet its financial obligations if the primary wage-earner dies. Clearly – larger policies will be bought more often by more affluent households.

But this doesn’t provide the complete picture. When LIMRA releases its sales results, we always give two metrics: premium and policy count. The reason we share both is because each is very important to get a complete picture of the life insurance market.
Let’s take a look at what happens when you look at policy count.

The majority of existing permanent policies are owned by middle-market consumers. The affluent (household income of $100,000 or more) own just 27 percent of existing permanent life insurance policies while 73 percent of the existing permanent policies are helping average Americans. Those earning $25,000 to $99,000 comprise 55 percent of the population, but own almost 60 percent of existing permanent policies.

If you look at new sales by policy count, consumers earning under $100,000 represent 72 percent of newly purchased permanent life insurance policies. So by this measure, it is truly middle America who are buying permanent and benefiting from it.

Recent LIMRA research found that 30 percent of U.S. households do not own any form of life insurance—a 50-year low. We also know that 75 percent of households have less than a month’s savings. What will these families do if their primary wage-earner died unexpectedly?

This is not the time to make buying life insurance less attractive. Collectively, we should be finding more ways to encourage consumers to get the coverage they need.

Finally, as researchers we know that it is critical to look at all the data before making conclusions. We encourage others to do the same.

Robert A Kerzner,
President and CEO of LIMRA, LOMA and LL Global
Windsor, Connecticut

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Precious cargo on board

If you have children, you know how important it is that they're secured when you're driving with them. But did you know incorrect usage of a car seat is common — and that even a minor mistake in usage can cause serious injury?1 Here are some tips that may help you use your child's car seat correctly:

Never put an infant in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger air bag — even if you think it’s been disabled.
Route harness straps in lower slots at or below shoulder level.
Keep harness straps snug and fasten the clip at armpit level.
Make sure the straps lie flat and aren’t twisted.
Dress your baby in clothes that allow the straps to go between the legs. Adjust the straps to allow for the thickness of your child’s clothes. Don’t use bulky clothes that could increase slack.
To keep your newborn from slouching, pad the sides of the seat and between the child’s legs with rolled up diapers or blankets.
When in the car, put the car seat carrying handle down.
For the best neck protection, infants should ride in the backseat facing the rear of the vehicle until at least 1 year of age and 20 pounds. Then they can ride in forward-facing child car seats (still in the backseat). Recline the rear-facing seat to a 45-degree angle. If your child’s head flops forward, the seat may not be reclined enough. Tilt the seat back until it is level by wedging firm padding, such as a rolled towel, under the front of the base of the seat.

To keep the car seat from being thrown forward in a crash, all new seats are required to be equipped with top tether straps — a belt that’s attached to the car seat and bolted to the window ledge or the floor of the car. Tether kits are also available for most older car seats — check with the manufacturer.

For more information about infant or toddler car seats, go to the Web site of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Also check out the National SafeKids Campaign which offers a free Child Car Seat Locator. Enter your child’s age and weight, and you can view a list of recommended car seats.

Is your child ready for a regular seat belt?
Children should be in an appropriate car seat or booster seat until they’re about 8 years old, unless they are already 4 feet and 9 inches or taller.2 After that, they should be properly seated with a lap and shoulder belt. Children age 12 and under should remain in the rear seat. All passengers should wear lap AND shoulder belts at all times. Laws can vary by state and municipality. See the IIHS List of State Laws for Vehicle Restraints or the Inventive Parent Car Seat Laws page.

Secure your precious cargo
Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of children from ages 1 to 14 and many of these deaths involve children that are unrestrained.3 Many are also avoidable with the proper use of the proper car seat. Give me a call: I can give you more information so that you can secure your precious cargo and enjoy your travels.



Customer Service Representatives work for Farmers agents as customer service and/or administrative professionals. Responsibilities typically include office management, customer policy support (in-office and telephone), and sales support activities. Some inside sales.

By obtaining the proper licensing, customer service reps may also sell insurance products within the agent’s office. If you are bilingual, you may also qualify for other financial incentives.


Minimum qualifications, usually preferred by a district manager include:

• Excellent written and oral communication skills - Must be Bi Lingual (Spanish)
• Customer service oriented
• Good computer skills and proficient with Word, Excel and PowerPoint
• Excellent organizational skills
• Highly motivated entrepreneur
• High School Diploma
• Good credit history (Insurance license a plus)

Location: E TC Jester and N Loop 610 (77018) - Must be within your commuting radius
Compensation: Hourly plus commission/bonus

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Do you have an umbrella?

Ah, the joys of home. So many comforts — and so many risks. The dog, the teenage driver, the pool, the house parties, the monster tree that overhangs your neighbor's yard — any of these could be the stuff from which lawsuits arise. And many homeowners and auto insurance policies may not offer enough coverage for major personal-liability claims. What would you do if you accidentally caused damage or injuries which went beyond the coverage limits of your homeowners or auto insurance? What would you do if you found yourself on the wrong end of a multi-million dollar lawsuit? Naturally, most people don't expect the unthinkable to happen — but sometimes it does.

Caveat: Don’t assume that your homeowners insurance provides adequate coverage in the event you’re sued for your negligence which results in injury or damages.

The Personal Liability policy
Umbrella policies, as they are also known, supplement the liability coverage you already have which is provided by your underlying homeowners and auto insurance, and provide an extra layer of coverage up to the limits you purchase. Of equal importance, an Umbrella policy extends liability coverage to encompass certain coverage gaps left by exclusions on the basic underlying policies.

You may want to consider purchasing a Personal Umbrella policy if any of the following apply:

Your total assets exceed your underlying liability limits.
You have assets over $1 million, including property and vehicles.
You have the potential to have assets over $1 million in the future.
You earn or have the potential to earn significant income.
You are financially responsible for a young or inexperienced driver.
You frequently carpool young children.
You own or operate an aircraft or boat.
You own a swimming pool, trampoline or dog.
You own waterfront property, a farm or ranch.
You employ one or more people in your home.
You want to make sure your current assets and future earnings are protected.

Life is uncertain: Plan for it
You probably work very hard for the things you own — don’t forget to protect them. You never know when the unexpected can ruin not just your day but also your well-laid financial plans for the future. Make sure you’re prepared — don’t forget your umbrella. Call me for more information.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrated

Farmers Agent David Lorms donated Lesson Plans and educational DVDs to Oak Forest Elementary School, Black Middle School and Lu Lu Stevens Elementary School to help celebrate and learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month, running through October 19th. Pictured with Lorms is Lu Lu Stevens Principal, Lucy Anderson.

Friday, September 24, 2010

National Flood Insurance Program extension approved

WASHINGTON—The House of Representatives Thursday on a voice vote gave final approval to legislation to extend the National Flood Insurance Program for one year through Sept. 30, 2011.

The Senate approved the measure, S. 3814, this week.

Without congressional action, the NFIP, which has been temporarily extended several times during the past year, would have expired Sept. 30.

“A long-term extension of the NFIP has been the goal of the insurance industry all year, and we’re pleased that it now heads to the president for his signature,” an American Insurance Assn. spokesman in Washington said in statement.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the measure shortly.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I'm single. Do I need life insurance?

Question: I'm single. Do I need life insurance?
Answer: It depends

Single people often think they don't need life insurance and they're often right. But there are many factors to consider beyond marital status when deciding whether you want life insurance. Answer the following questions and see where you stand:

Do you have any dependents? If you have children, or provide support for a parent or grandparent, your death could create a serious financial hardship for these dependents. Life insurance can help provide a continued stream of income for your loved ones if you die prematurely.
Do you have a mortgage or loans held jointly with a cosigner? If so, your death would leave the cosigner responsible for the entire debt. You might want to consider purchasing life insurance to help cover these debts in the event of your death. If you have other personal debts, your creditors can make a claim for payment against any assets in your estate.
Are you at risk for any serious medical conditions? For example, if your family medical history includes certain genetic conditions, such as diabetes or certain types of cancer, you may want to consider purchasing life insurance while you’re young and healthy. Should you develop such a condition, purchasing life insurance later could be difficult, or even impossible.
If you died tomorrow, who would pay for your final expenses? For many families, even a relatively simple funeral can create a major financial burden. Life insurance can help offset these expenses.

Give me a call. We can discuss your individual situation so that you can decide if life insurance is appropriate for you. And if you feel it’s not necessary at this time, we can review your other insurance policies so you can be sure you have the coverage you want.

Life insurance issued by Farmers New World Life Insurance Company, Mercer Island

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fire Safety Tips

The best way of surviving a fire is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Here are some tips:

Keep your home free of oily rags and trash build-up. Gasoline and other flammable liquids should be stored in approved metal safety cans.
Cleaning materials should be kept in a ventilated area, away from any heat source. Vapors given off by these substances can ignite when they come in contact with a heat source, such as a pilot light.
Check lamps, appliance cords and light switches to make sure there is no faulty wiring. Never overload electrical circuits.
Allow adequate ventilation space around televisions, stereos and other entertainment equipment.
Teach your children not to play with matches. Keep matches in a closed metal container away from heat sources and out of the reach of children.
Never smoke in bed. Carelessly discarded cigarettes are the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States.
Remove all weeds, tree branches and litter from your yard.
If you have a fireplace, make sure it is properly screened and install a spark arrestor with at least a half-inch mesh on the chimney.
Daily household trash should be kept in a covered can away from any heat source. Recycle newspapers frequently.
Be a careful cook. Never wear long sleeves when you cook -- they can catch fire. Keep the handles of your pots turned inward, so the pots can't be knocked over. Never put foil or other metals in a microwave oven.

Fire safety tips
Make sure all family members know how to dial 911 in case of an emergency.
Have at least two exits from every room in your home. Invest in fire escape ladders for upstairs bedrooms.
Go through a practice drill every six months. With the whole family, practice what to do in a fire emergency.
Assign a tree or other landmark where family members can meet after they escape the burning house.
Teach children never to go back in the house. Train them not to hide from fire under beds, in closets or other places where rescuers cannot easily find them.

Smoke Detectors
The importance of smoke detectors cannot be overestimated. Most fires occur at night, while people sleep. The toxic gases from a fire can numb your senses, disorient you and kill you while you sleep. For this reason, smoke detectors are a must.
Install a detector in every bedroom and keep one centrally located on each floor of your home. Hallways and kitchens are especially good locations for smoke detectors.

Because smoke rises, mount smoke detectors either on the ceiling or high on a wall (6-12 inches from the ceiling).
Don't install smoke detectors by doors, windows or vents, where drafts could affect their performance.
Test and clean your smoke detector batteries about once a month. You'll need to replace batteries about once a year.
Never paint your smoke detector unit -- it might clog its smoke detecting sensors.
Gently vacuum your smoke detector and keep it free of dust and other foreign particles that could hinder its function.

How to Survive a Fire
If a grease fire occurs while you are cooking, do not throw water on it. Water splatters the grease and the flames. Use a dry chemical fire extinguisher or cover the fire with the pan lid.
Before opening a door, make sure there's not fire on the other side. Check the closed door for heat. If everything feels cool, brace your shoulder against the door and open it carefully. Slam it shut if heat or smoke rushes in.
Close all doors behind you. This can slow the spread of fire and smoke.
Crawl low under smoke. If you encounter smoke, use an alternate escape route. If you must exit through smoke, the cleanest air will be several inches off the floor. Crawl on your hands and knees to the nearest safe exit.
Once you are outside, do not go back into the house. Go to your family's central meeting place, then have someone use a neighbor's phone to call the fire department.
If you are trapped, close doors between you and the fire. Stuff the cracks around doors and cover vents. Wait at a window and signal for help with a flashlight or by waving a piece of light-colored cloth. If possible, call the fire department and tell them exactly where you are.
Everyone in your family should know the "Stop, Drop and Roll" rule. If your clothes catch fire, don't run! Stop where you are, drop to the ground, cover your face with your hands to protect your face and lungs, and roll over and over to smother the flames.
If you see someone on fire, quickly cover them with a blanket to smother the flames.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Your Teen Driver

As a parent, it's up to you to help your teens become safer drivers. Here are some suggestions:
Choosing a vehicle: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which crash-tests dozens of vehicles each year, advises parents to choose a midsize vehicle with lots of safety features such as air bags and antilock brakes. Choose the newest model your budget can afford since most of today's cars are better designed for crash protection than vehicles six to 10 years old. Before making a final choice on the vehicle your teenager will drive, check out the consumer information on car safety available from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Insurance Information Institute, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and, of course, your Farmers agent.

Phase in driving privileges: Graduated licensing programs, now in force in 24 states, phase in privileges such as nighttime driving, to allow young drivers to build experience. If you don't live in a graduated licensing state, you can do the job yourself. For example, have your new driver spend at least four months driving with you in the car, then another four months driving alone before you allow him/her to drive friends.

Spell out the rules clearly: Be specific about the time they should be home, when and how many friends they can have in the car, and so on. You should always know where your new driver is going.

Spell out the consequences: Your teen needs to understand that if these obligations are not met, there will be consequences, including surrendering the car keys.

Make your driver pay: Another way to encourage mature behavior is to make your child financially responsible for buying and maintaining the vehicle.

Send them to school: It's a good idea to get your teen some supplemental driving instruction, whether it's a one-time safety course or a full-fledged driving school. Check out Farmers' teen driver education program, You're Essential to Safety (Y.E.S.), free to all young drivers.

Be sure to speak with your Farmer's agent ahead of time about adding a teen driver to your policy and review your Auto insurance coverage annually.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Peak Hurricane Season is Here - Get Flood Insurance Before a Storm Hits and It's Too Late!

Peak Hurricane Season is Here - Get Flood Insurance Before a Storm Hits and It's Too Late!

Read the important information below to learn about peak hurricane season flood risks and FloodSmart tools you can use to encourage you to protect yourselves with flood insurance.

Recent heavy rains across the United States serve as another reminder to you that NOW is the time for you to protect your families, homes and businesses by obtaining flood insurance. Late summer and early fall marks the beginning of peak hurricane season - the most active time of the year for hurricanes and tropical storms - and property and business owners need to be prepared should a storm hit your community in the upcoming months. Most homeowners' insurance policies do not cover flood damage and once purchased, there is typically a 30-day waiting period for a flood insurance policy to become effective.

The Risk is Real

Hurricanes and tropical storms bring drenching rains and high winds that can cause significant damage to a home or business and its contents - and recent violent weather and subsequent flooding in Oklahoma and Tennessee demonstrate that floods are not limited to coastal areas. The largest amounts of rainfall from hurricanes are often produced by slow moving storms that move inland. Some of the worst damage from recent hurricanes has occurred hundreds or thousands of miles from the coast - as far north as New York in the case of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and through much of the Midwest and into Pennsylvania because of Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Costly Consequences

Eight of the top ten most expensive federally-declared disasters have been caused by hurricanes. Just inches of water can cause tens of thousands of dollars of damage and last year, the average individual flood insurance claim was nearly $28,000. Without flood insurance protection, many property owners may have to absorb the financial losses on their own, potentially draining their savings.

Protect Yourself

Individuals and business owners should get covered before a storm could impact their community and home. You should also know that flood insurance is more affordable than you may think. The average flood insurance policy is around $579 a year and in moderate-to-low-risk areas, Preferred Risk Policies start as low as $119 a year (that's equal to $10 a month or 33 cents a day).

Tools You Can Use

Visit to find essential information and tools that will help remind your customers to prepare for hurricane season.

Cost-of-Flooding Tool: allows property owners to see how expensive just a few inches of water can be to re-building their home or business.

Risk Assessment Tool: allows users to enter their address into an online tool to learn their property's flood risk.

Hurricane Flooding Fact Sheets: explains the realities of hurricane season risks.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Oak Forest Elementary School Parents night

Oak Forest Elementary School held parents night on 9/8/2010 and 9/9/2010. Farmers Agent David Lorms participated by handing out child safety information, safety coloring books and Child Identification Kits to log critical information about your child as the first step in an Amber Alert. Pictured with Lorms is Assistant Principal, Rachel Reed.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

10 Things to Know about Flood Safety

Flooding can occur as streams and rivers overflow their banks, when dams or levees break, with run-off from deep snow cover, or any time there is rainfall with significant duration and intensity.

Keep these facts in mind to stay alive and dry.

Flash floods can come rapidly and unexpectedly. They can occur within a few minutes or hours of excessive rainfall, or when a dam or levee fails and even a sudden release of water held by an ice or debris jam. Be cautious during storm seasons, or any time that flooding is common in your area.

You may not have warning that a flash flood is approaching.
Do not drive unless absolutely necessary.

Do not drive through flooded areas. If you see a flooded-out road ahead, turn around. Find another route to your destination.

If there is no other route, get to higher ground and wait for the waters to subside.

Even if the water appears shallow enough to cross, don't try it. Water hides dips in the road. Worse yet, there may be no road at all under the water.

Flooding can scour away the entire road surface and a significant amount of ground beneath.

If your car stalls, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.

Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control or possible stalling.

One foot of water will float almost many vehicles.

Two feet of rushing water can sweep away most vehicles — including SUVs and pick-ups.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Preparing for an Insurance Adjuster an Important Step in Recovery

Showing your home's storm damage to an insurance adjuster should be a feeling of relief rather than high anxiety. An adjuster arriving at your residence means you are that much closer to having your home repaired and your life returned to normal.

"We have to visit people at absolutely the worst time of their life. Their house is usually damaged or destroyed, their lives have been turned upside down and they're not sure what to expect when they meet with us," said Bob Schach, branch manager of Custard Adjusters in Austin. "Nine times out of 10, we get along great and we leave families knowing they are going to be taken care of."

Schach, who has handled hundreds of claims from Hurricanes Rita and Ike, says homeowners have some misconceptions about adjusters. "They want a check as soon as they see us," Schach said. "We don't do that."

Insurance adjusters strive to respond first to the homes of policyholders who have reported the most severe damage. An adjuster may need an entire day to record all of the damage that to the interior and exterior of the home and contents. The adjuster must file his report with his office and the insurance company who will double check the damage, look at the cost of materials, review the policy's limits and coverages and make the appropriate payments as quickly as possible.

The best advice for homeowners is to document their damage before adjusters arrive.

"If homeowners had an inventory list of every item damaged inside their home, it could save adjusters up to two weeks in preparing their reports," says Richard Myers, vice president of Brush Country Claims in Alice. "The personal property list should include a description of the item, where and when they purchased it, how much they paid for them and a receipt for any expensive damaged item. Any photos or videos are helpful."

Pictures and information on the contents of one's home should be kept off site, outside the home in another location for safekeeping, if possible. If kept inside the house, the documents could also be destroyed during the storm.

Myers said adjusters are just one step in the process of bringing a claim to a conclusion.

"In doing their job, adjusters are also dealing with the area's catastrophic conditions. They, too, must find a place to stay at the end of a long day. Service stations, restaurants and suitable living conditions can be few and far between," Myers said. "The adjuster and the homeowner should work as a team to bring the claim to a conclusion."

Homeowners are kept up to date on the content of the adjuster's report and are given ample opportunities to voice their opinion for re-inspections or point out additional losses throughout the process.

One of the first checks a homeowner with major covered damage may see is an advance check to cover additional living expenses or ALE. Some dwelling policies have this coverage for primary residences. This check is intended to cover additional costs incurred by the insured to live elsewhere due to covered damage that makes the home unlivable. An advance payment could also be for temporary repairs that have been made, as well as major repair to the home.

If additional or supplemental covered damage is found after the initial estimate, the policyholder can request that the adjuster get back involved for review and consideration of a supplemental payment.

Not all homeowners get along with their insurance adjusters. Homeowners have the right to ask their insurer for another adjuster if the two parties simply can't work together.

The life of an adjuster is not easy. Myers, who has handled catastrophic claims for nearly 20 years, said for claims to be handled smoothly, homeowners must have patience and communicate.

"Homeowners must share with adjusters all of the information they have on the damage to their home, what may have happened and any stories that can contribute to the decision making process on their claim," Myers said.

Adjusters are the foot soldiers for insurance companies. If they don't do their job, it's the insurance companies that are blamed. But they must be doing a good job. Hurricane Ike produced an estimated 800,000 claims and justified complaints to the Texas Department of Insurance numbered 2,683, representing 0.33 percent. Hurricane Dolly resulted in 48,000 claims with 72 complaints or 0.17 percent.

Source: Insurance Council of Texas

Lu Lu M. Stevens Elementary School Parents Night

Lu Lu M. Stevens Elementary School held their parents night on Tuesday August 31, 2010. On hand was Farmers Agent David Lorms, giving out safety information and Child Identification Kits to parents. Pictured with Lorms is parent Lizbeth Montes.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

5 years after Katrina, homeowners insurance costs more

Marshall Hill stands in his rebuilt master bedroom. Flooding after Hurricane Katrina damaged his home.
By H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY

By Sandra Block, USA TODAY

Five years after Hurricane Katrina leveled a large part of the Gulf Coast, homeowners as far away as Maine are still paying the bill.
Home insurance rates for some coastal areas have shot up 30% or more. Thousands of homeowners who live along the East Coast have had their policies canceled. And when the next disaster hits, many homeowners will be forced to bear a greater share of the cost of rebuilding.

Insurance industry executives say the unprecedented cost of Katrina, combined with predictions of more violent weather in the future, forced insurers to review their exposure to vulnerable areas.

Insurance companies "decided they couldn't be all things to all people," says Don Griffin, vice president of personal lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. "Some of the very large companies looked at their whole coastline and realized even New York has a fairly significant exposure should a major event hit there."

HURRICANE KATRINA: Five years later
FEDERAL INITIATIVE: Huge losses put flood insurance plans in the red

Homeowners, meanwhile, are still dealing with the limitations of their pre-Katrina coverage. Marshall Hill, 46, of D'Iberville, Miss., says State Farm promptly paid his claim after the hurricane hit his four-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot ranch house. But the insurer covered only about $48,000 of the $125,000 in damages to his home. Damage caused by rising water wasn't covered by his homeowners policy, and Hill didn't have federal flood insurance.

Hill took out a second mortgage and a Small Business Administration disaster assistance loan to make up the difference between his insurance payout and the cost of rebuilding the home. Hill now has a federal flood insurance policy that costs about $200 a year. He says he didn't have any trouble getting another policy from State Farm for not much more than he paid before Katrina.

"As ugly as the whole thing was, we actually felt kind of fortunate," Hill says.

Others haven't been as lucky. What has changed:

Higher rates

From 2005 through 2007, the latest figures available, the average premium for homeowners insurance in the USA increased 7.6%, according to a survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. But the average doesn't reflect what many homeowners have experienced. Some inland states saw much more modest increases, while homeowners in coastal areas experienced double-digit rate increases.

In Florida, for example, average premiums jumped 41% from 2005 through 2007, according to the NAIC survey. Average rates in Louisiana rose 22%. Rhode Island homeowners saw their rates go up by nearly 12%, while average premiums for New York homeowners rose 11%.

"After the insurance industry looked at the devastation caused by Katrina, it said the underwriting price (for homeowners insurance) should be higher than it is," says Bill Sinn, insurance industry director for Pitney Bowes Business Insight.

Homeowners who live far from the ocean shouldn't assume they're immune to disaster-related rate increases, says Ross Buchmueller, chief executive officer at PURE (Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange), an insurer that provides insurance to homeowners with high-end coastal properties. After coming ashore in Texas in September 2008, Hurricane Ike moved inland and caused $1 billion in insured losses in Ohio, he says. That has led insurers to review their pricing models to determine whether they've accounted for the risk of inland storms, he says.

An exodus by large insurers

Starting this month, State Farm Florida will drop 125,000 Florida homeowners whose policies are up for renewal, representing about 15% of its business in that state. State Farm hasn't written any new policies in Florida since February 2008.

It could have been worse: State Farm threatened to pull out of Florida altogether last year after state regulators turned down a request for a 47% rate increase. Under a consent order reached with regulators in December 2009, the insurer agreed to keep 550,000 State Farm policyholders and raise rates by about 15%.

Florida was hit by eight hurricanes from 2004 through 2005, says State Farm spokesman Chris Neal. The costs of those disasters made it unprofitable for State Farm to stay in Florida, Neal says.

While the consent order will stabilize State Farm in the short term, it doesn't guarantee the insurer will remain in Florida, Neal says. "When you're paying out more than you're taking in, you can't sustain that forever."

Similar pullbacks have occurred throughout the country, including in regions that haven't experienced a major hurricane in years. Since Katrina, major insurers such as State Farm, Allstate and MetLife have reduced coverage in parts of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maryland and Massachusetts.

Katrina, along with a record number of hurricanes in 2004, led some insurers to conclude "they were too exposed to coastal areas given the premiums they were able to charge," says Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, an insurance-industry-funded educational organization.

Consumer advocates contend that major insurers have used Katrina and other disasters as an excuse to get out of a less-profitable segment of their business. For large insurers, "auto insurance is a lot more profitable than homeowners" insurance, says Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, a consumer rights group. "It's just a business strategy."

New players

While some major insurers have moved out of coastal areas, others have stepped in to fill the vacuum, Hartwig says. "Coverage is available, and it remains affordable in these areas, although it's more expensive than it was five years ago," he says.

Howard Mills, director and chief adviser of Deloitte's Insurance Industry Group and former superintendent of the New York State Insurance Department, agrees. The impact of non-renewals in coastal states "was not nearly as great as people would have thought, because other insurers really jumped into the breach," he says.

For example, PURE, which insures homes valued at $1 million or more, now provides insurance to about 8,000 families in 17 states. The company's decision to launch its business in Florida in 2007 "was directly related to the lack of availability" of insurance in that state for high-end homes, Buchmueller says.

But some of the new players are small and untested, raising questions about their ability to withstand the cost of a major disaster. For example, some start-up companies that are writing homeowners policies in Florida are financially unstable, says Weiss Ratings, an independent provider of ratings for financial institutions.

Royal Palm Insurance and Edison Insurance, both of which opened for business in Florida in 2006, are rated E+, or "very weak." People's Trust Insurance, which began operating in 2008, is rated D-, or "weak."

"The percentage of companies rated E+ that subsequently are subject to regulatory takeover by insurance commissioners is very high," says Martin Weiss, president of Weiss Ratings. "They go bankrupt at a high rate."

Michael Gold, chief executive and founder of People's Trust, says his company, which has 30,000 policyholders, has sufficient capital to withstand a hurricane of even greater magnitude than Katrina. "We're not the teeny company Weiss thinks we are, and they really don't have an idea of all the capital we have," he says.

Royal Palm and Edison Insurance didn't respond to requests for comment.

Higher deductibles

Insurers that are still providing coverage in coastal and other high-risk areas are increasingly charging a percentage-based deductible, which could cost some policyholders thousands of dollars after a hurricane, earthquake or hailstorm. Unlike a flat deductible, which is based on a specific amount, such as $500, a percentage deductible is based on the insured value of the home. For example, if the insured value is $200,000 and the policy has a percentage-based deductible of 1%, the homeowner could be forced to pay $2,000 out of pocket.

In most cases, percentage deductibles are limited to certain types of damages, such as hurricane-related claims, Mills says: "It's fairly specific and is intended to spread the risk around." While percentage-based deductibles have been around for years, their use has risen since Katrina, he says.

Bach says the insurer that covers her parents' Long Island, N.Y., home switched them from a $500 flat deductible to a percentage-based deductible of 5% after Katrina. "We felt lucky they didn't get dropped," she says.

Emphasis on prevention

Griffin says Katrina demonstrated the need for tougher building codes and standards, particularly in vulnerable areas. Some homes that were built using more stringent construction standards sustained minor roof damage from Katrina, while older homes located right across the street were wiped out, he says.

Under a law passed by the Florida Legislature in 2008, some owners of high-end homes risk losing their coverage from state-owned Citizens Property Insurance unless they install hurricane-resistant windows and doors. Citizens is the largest property insurer in Florida.

But a new report by the Institute for Business & Home Safety, a research organization funded by the insurance industry, said states haven't done enough to promote disaster-resistant construction.

"Building codes along the Gulf Coast today are mostly disappointing, with only Louisiana getting high marks for taking proactive steps to adopt a statewide building code," Wanda Edwards, IBHS' director of code development, said in a statement.

Hill says he believes his rebuilt home is strong enough to withstand another hurricane — and will be in even better shape after he installs a more hurricane-resistant roof next summer. "This is home," he says. "Mother Nature is not going to run me off."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Homeowners Coverage Knowledge Gap Wide Among Consumers

Many Americans admit to having a knowledge gap when it comes to what their home insurance actually covers, according to a new survey.

Nearly one third (31 percent) of Americans don't know how much their most valuable assets -- their homes -- are insured for, and an additional 46 percent don't know how much coverage they have for their homes' contents, such as furniture and clothing, say the results of a survey by Zogby International for MetLife Auto & Home. Additionally, many homeowners aren't aware of coverage overlaps that may exist, which could result in opportunities to save money.

The first of a two-part "Insurance Literacy" survey, tested consumer knowledge of insurance basics, including homeowners, condo, and renter's insurance.

Common misconceptions that could lead to coverage gaps were:

-- Thirty percent of homeowners believe their insurance coverage is based on the current market value of their home. Actually, the available coverage limit for homeowners insurance is based on the cost to rebuild the home, a mistake that could lead to confusion for homeowners trying to evaluate whether they have the right amount of insurance.

-- More than two thirds (71 percent) of those surveyed believe insurance pays for the full cost to rebuild their property in the event of a major loss, such as a fire or other natural disaster. But nearly all insurance companies "cap" the amount paid to rebuild the dwelling following a total loss, unless additional coverage is purchased. Furthermore, the coverage is subject to a deductible, and certain causes of loss, such as water damage caused by the natural disasters of flooding, are excluded completely.

-- Almost three-quarters (73 percent) believe insurance will pay the full cost to replace personal belongings in the event of a loss. However, depreciation is usually factored in, unless optional replacement coverage is selected, and the coverage, regardless of the chosen settlement method, is subject to a deductible.

-- Sixty percent believe insurance will pay for the full cost of replacing valuables, such as jewelry and collectibles. Most insurance policies contain a payment cap for replacing valuables, although additional coverage can be purchased, and the coverage is subject to a deductible.

-- For a major loss, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of those surveyed expect their insurance to cover any building code mandated upgrades that are necessary. Without an endorsement/rider, most home insurance does not cover required upgrades located in an undamaged portion of the home.

"More than two-thirds of consumers surveyed also said they'd rather pay a higher premium than be told that a loss isn't covered," said Bill Moore, president of MetLife Auto & Home. "To ensure this doesn't happen, consumers can find the best value by learning more about their policies and selecting the coverage that best meets their needs, rather than simply shopping for the lowest premium."

On a positive note, with purse strings tight, opportunities exist for consumers to become more aware of what their current policies do cover in the event of a loss, to avoid insurance overlaps and unnecessary out-of-pocket expenses. For example:

-- Electronically downloaded and stored entertainment, such as music, ring tones, etc., can be expensive to replace without easy access to free re-downloads. However, more than 90 percent of homeowners didn't know that insurance can extend coverage to electronic data.

-- Almost half (47 percent) didn't realize there's no need to secure additional coverage to insure the personal property of college-age children living on campus. This is covered under the standard homeowners contract, subject to its terms and conditions.

-- Many homeowners would be surprised to learn that damage to appliances and wiring from a power surge would be covered by their insurance policy. More than half (59 percent) didn't think it would -- limiting out-of-pocket expenses to a deductible.

Natural Disasters

Many homeowners exhibit confusion about insurance coverage for natural disasters and unforeseen occurrences. The majority of homeowners understand that flood damage is written on a separate policy from their standard insurance policies. However, many consumers are still misinformed -- or unsure -- about the coverage available for other types of events.

In some cases, homeowners are aware of the potential for a loss, but don't realize what coverage they have against a particular hazard. Among other things:

-- Although 83 percent believe foundation damage from earth movement is very serious or somewhat serious, only 37 percent know they aren't covered for this under the standard homeowners policy.

-- More than a quarter (28 percent) incorrectly believe they'd be covered for an earthquake or volcanic eruption, and the same amount aren't sure one way or the other. Most standard policies exclude this peril.

-- For water damage from a sewer or sump-pump back up, 67 percent of homeowners believe this would be covered. Without the appropriate rider, most policies don't cover this.

Read more:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vietnamese Speaking Customer Service Rep (E TC Jester and Loop 610 - Houston, TX)

Customer Service Representatives work for Farmers agents as customer service and/or administrative professionals. Responsibilities typically include office management, customer policy support (in-office and telephone), and sales support activities.

By obtaining the proper licensing, customer service reps may also sell insurance products within the agent’s office. If you are bilingual, you may also qualify for other financial incentives.

Minimum qualifications:

• Excellent written and oral communication skills (Fluent in both Vietnamese and English)
• Customer service oriented
• Good computer skills and proficient with Word, Excel and PowerPoint
• Excellent organizational skills
• Highly motivated entrepreneur
• High School Diploma
• Good credit history (Insurance license a plus)

So why wait? Explore an exciting new opportunity as a Customer Service Representative in a Farmers agency.

Location: TC Jester and Loop 610

Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

Location: E TC Jester and Loop 610 - Houston, TX
Compensation: Hourly plus commission/bonus
Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
Please, no phone calls about this job!
Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Burglary Claims in Texas Jump 9% in 2009

The number of home burglary claims for Insurance customers in Texas jumped 9 percent last year. With many Texans taking trips this summer, the insurer is encouraging people to keep their homes locked-up and their vacation plans under wraps.

In a survey of police departments across the state, it was found flat screen televisions are typically the number one target in home burglaries, followed by laptops, jewelry and cash. Some surveyed departments reported an increasing number of home burglaries that are tied to organized criminal activity, like street gangs.

Police reported these suspects have "shopping lists" of items to steal and will back into a victim's driveway and knock on the door. If no one answers, police say the perpetrators kick in the door, take items and leave within a few minutes. After the burglary, most of the items end up at an organized fencing operation where they are transported to other cities, states and across the border.

"Not only do these home burglaries disrupt homeowners' lives because their valuables are stolen, but they create a potentially dangerous situation if the theft is interrupted," said David Christopher, an agent in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. "That's why it's so important for homeowners to take precautions because these thefts can happen anywhere."

Home Theft Breakdown by City

Home theft numbers increased in most major Texas cities in 2009.

City Home Theft Change from 2008 to 2009
Austin +47%
Dallas-Fort Worth +7%
El Paso -16%
Houston +8%
Lubbock +1%
Rio Grande Valley +55%
San Antonio +6%
Waco-Temple-Killeen +5%

Read more:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

ALERT - Hurricane Alex

ALERT - Hurricane Alex

Hurricane Alex has made landfall. We want to make sure all Farmers policyholders with storm damage are aware of several important phone numbers. If you have damage to your home or auto, please call Farmers' 24-hour claims hotline, 1-800-HelpPoint (1-800-435-7764) for immediate assistance.

Foremost Insurance customers should file their claim by calling: 1-800-527-3907.
Bristol West Insurance customers should file their claim by calling: 1-800-274-7865.
Customers of Texas Windstorm Insurance Associationwho wish to file a claim: call 1-800-788-8247.
Customers with a National Flood Policy serviced by a Farmers agent, please call 1-800-759-8656.

For further updates, please visit Farmers Catastrophe Page

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Flood Insurance Program Back in Business Until Sept. 30

The U.S. Senate last night approved a temporary reauthorization of the federal flood insurance program until Sept. 30. The reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is retroactive to June 1, the date the program was halted.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization News

As you probably know, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) expired on midnight May 31, 2010 and has not been reauthorized by Congress. Consequently, the Program is experiencing a hiatus – a period without authority to:

Issue increased coverage on existing policies for which endorsement and premium payment dates are on or after June 1, 2010, or Issue renewal policies for which the renewal premium is received by the company on or after June 1, 2010, and after the end of the 30-day renewal grace period, until Congress reauthorizes the Program.

While awaiting Congressional reauthorization, FEMA is issuing the guidance below. For the most up-to-date information on the status of the NFIP please visit or call the FEMA News Desk at 202-646-3272.

New Policies

New policies for which the application was completed on or before May 31, 2010, and the application and premium payment were received within 10 days of the application date, will be issued for coverage and will become effective on the requested effective date, in accordance with the applicable waiting period rules.

For loans closing prior to the first day of hiatus, when the application is dated on or before closing and the premium payment is from the escrow account (lender’s check), title company, or settlement attorney, and is received within 30 days from the closing date, the policy can be issued effective the date of the closing.

For loans closing prior to the first day of hiatus, when the application is dated on or before closing and the premium payment is not part of the closing (i.e., the applicant or applicant’s representative check or credit card) and the application and premium were received within 10 days of the application date, the policy can be issued effective the date of the closing only if the presentment of premium was on or before the closing date. If the presentment of premium (check or credit card date) was on or after June 1, 2010, the policy cannot be issued, even though the application and closing occurred prior to the hiatus.

For loans closing on or after the first day of hiatus, when the application is dated prior to the hiatus and the presentment of premium is prior to the hiatus, the policy may be issued effective at closing so long as premium is received within 10 days of the closing date.

As always, the starting dates of NFIP coverage depend on the applicable flood insurance waiting period.

Policies that are in force before midnight of the last day of effective Program authorization will remain in force, and claims under those policies are to be processed and paid as usual afterwards (once hiatus begins).

Claims for covered losses occurring during a hiatus, on existing policies and on policies issued effective after the last day of effective authorization, are to be processed and paid as usual.

WYO Companies may investigate claims under a reservation-of-rights letter or a non-waiver agreement, up to the point of payment. Under either, WYO Companies would reserve the right not to pay the claim if Congress does not reauthorize the NFIP while continuing the investigation of the claim.

If reauthorization is granted retroactively, WYO Companies can issue policies effective as of the date they receive payments (subject to applicable waiting periods), and claims for covered losses can be processed.

Determining Payment Receipt Dates, New Policy Premiums, Renewal Policy Premiums, Added Coverage Endorsements

The controlling factor in determining payment receipt dates for new policy premiums, renewal policy premiums, or added coverage endorsements is when the insurance company receives payment, not the standard mail postmark.

However, proof of mailing receipts or third-party receipts that WYO Companies receive through certified mail or from entities such Federal Express (FedEx), United Parcel Service (UPS), and courier services do serve as payment receipt dates.

There will be no interruption in coverage if a customer mails the premium and the WYO Company receives it on or prior to midnight of the last day of effective Program authorization. See the exception listed below under Hiatus Scenarios, where the WYO Company is allowed to issue or renew policies even if the premium is received after a hiatus begins.

Hiatus Scenarios

Policies without a 30-Day Waiting Period

If the reauthorization is not retroactive to the first day of the hiatus, policies without a 30-day waiting period would become effective on the date the reauthorization is effective. This rule applies to loan closings occurring on or after the first day of the hiatus.

Policies with a 30-Day Waiting Period

If the reauthorization is not retroactive to the first day of the hiatus, policies with a 30-day waiting period would become effective 30 days after Congress has reauthorized the NFIP.


If the renewal offer was issued prior to authorization expiration, and the renewal premium is received before or within the 30-day grace period, the policy can be renewed even if the renewal premium was received after authorization expiration. The same rule applies on an underpayment notice issued before authorization expiration.
WYO Companies are no longer authorized to renew policies if the premium is received on or after the first day of the hiatus and after the end of the 30-day renewal grace period.


Existing policies can be canceled during the hiatus in accordance with valid NFIP cancellation reason codes.
Assignment of Flood Policies

An existing policy can be assigned provided the insured signs and dates the endorsement request.

For more details and FAQs concerning the NFIP reauthorization and how it affects the processing of flood insurance, go to

Please email us at with any questions about NFIP and FloodSmart.

If Today's Bid Fails, Next Likely Vote to Restart Flood Insurance: July 12

The future of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) remains in limbo even as Hurricane Alex makes its way to the Texas coast today.

Washington lobbyists say a vote could come today but if that doesn't happen it could be until July 12 or thereafter before another vote is possible since Congress will not be around during the July 4th holiday.

The NFIP expired on June 1, the first official day of hurricane season. Since then, flooding has occurred in several states.

On June 23, the House of Representatives passed another temporary extension of the NFIP, good through Sept. 30, 2010, but the Senate has failed to take action so far.

Even if the Senate passed an NFIP extension, a flood insurance policy normally does not go into effect for 30 days after the policy is purchased, further underscoring the importance of renewing the program as quickly as possible, says the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). The NAIC has sent a letter to House and Senate leaders urging immediate action to extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). In the letter, regulators stressed that timing is negatively affecting consumers.

"As state regulators, we are deeply concerned with the impact the nearly month-long lapse has caused for consumers and future flood victims across the country," said Jane L. Cline, NAIC president and West Virginia Insurance Commissioner. "It is imperative that Congress act to quickly to extend the program so that consumers can protect themselves."

Blain Rethmeier, senior vice president for public affairs for the American Insurance Association, says right now the future of the NFIP remains in limbo with no clear legislative path for a retroactive extension of the program.

"There is a slim chance the Senate will have an opportunity to pass the short term extension, but with Senator Byrd's funeral, it looks unlikely," Rethmeier said. "We very well could go into the July 4th recess without any resolution."

Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana brought the NFIP extension through Sept. 30 to the Senate floor for unanimous consent yesterday, according Matt Brady, director of media relations for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Cos. (NAMIC). But Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois objected and offered the "extenders" bill, legislation that would extend the program through the end of the year but also includes other provisions that have drawn objections for increasing the budget deficit, according to Brady. Brady said Sen. Vitter then objected to the extenders bill.

"It's possible that it could be brought to the floor for unanimous consent again today," Brady said, but cautioned that if nothing happens today, the Senate would be less likely to take action tomorrow because of the memorial service planned for the late Sen. Robert Byrd. "They're also out all next week, so if they adjourn without extending the program nothing can happen until July 12 or 13 at a minimum."

The program has been unable to issue new or renewal policies since it was shut down May 31, although it is still paying claims. It is the fourth time in the past year that the program has been interrupted due to the failure of Congress to reauthorize it for an extended period.

Read more:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Topical Storm Alex

The latest reports still show TS Alex heading for landfall just south of
the Texas – Mexico boarder. Currently the storm is moving at 8 miles per
hour with sustained wind speed of 70 miles per hour. It is estimated that
the storm will peak at 97 mile per hour winds, just above the CAT 2
threshold of 95 miles per hour. Once the eye has developed we should
receive better reports on where the storm will make landfall. Alex is
expected to become a hurricane today with an estimated landfall of Thursday
still in the forecast.

Texas Prepares as Tropical Storm Alex Heads Toward Hurricane Status

As of 10 a.m. CDT on June 29, Tropical Storm Alex was nearing hurricane strength in the western Gulf of Mexico and the National Hurricane Center (NHC) expects it to reach hurricane status later in the day. The storm is forecast to make landfall near the Mexico/Texas border late on June 30.

Risk Management Solutions reports that Alex's potential track and intensity are similar to that of Hurricane Dolly, which made landfall near Brownsville, Texas, in July 2008 and caused more than $500 million in damage. Dolly caused most of its damage to South Padre Island before coming ashore causing additional wind and flood damage, according to the Insurance Council of Texas.

When and if Alex is declared by the NHC to have reached hurricane status, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association - the insurer of last resort along the Texas coast - will cease accepting applications for coverage as of 12:01 a.m. on the day hurricane status is declared.

In Texas, hurricane warnings extend along the coast from south of Baffin Bay to the Rio Grande. A tropical storm warning is in effect from Baffin Bay to Port O'Connor.

In advance of the storm, Gov. Rick Perry issued a disaster proclamation for 19 Texas counties and ordered the pre-deployment of state resources, such as the National Guard and other emergency response professionals and equipment.

The governor's proclamation listed Aransas, Bee, Brooks, Cameron, Duval, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Live Oak, McMullen, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Starr, Webb, Willacy, and Zapata as being potentially vulnerable to impact from Alex. Perry also called upon the following counties to assist in the state's response to the storm: Atascosa, Bexar, Comal, Guadalupe, Medina and Wilson.

Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros in Mexico are the largest cities located close to the projected landfall area. Brownsville has a population of around 140,000 and Matamoros, around 420,000, according to RMS. The popular resort area of South Padre Island in Texas is likely to be impacted, as well.

"Alex could become one of the earliest hurricanes in the season to hit Texas," according to Mark Hanna, a spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas. "Ever since they began naming hurricanes in 1954, only two hurricanes have struck Texas before July 1."

Hurricane Audrey struck the Sabine Pass with 100 mile per hour winds on June 27, 1957, and Hurricane Bonnie struck Sea Rim State Park with 87 mile per hour wind gusts back on June 26, 1986

Here’s what you can do to stay safe during a flood:

Protect Yourself and Your Home

If flooding occurs, go to higher ground and avoid areas subject to flooding.

Do not attempt to walk across flowing streams or drive through flooded roadways.
If water rises in your home before you evacuate, go to the top floor, attic, or roof.

Listen to a battery-operated radio for the latest storm information.

Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if advised to do so.

If you’ve come in contact with floodwaters, wash your hands with soap and disinfected water.

What can I do to protect my home and family from a hurricane?

What can I do to protect my home and family from a hurricane?
Besides insuring your property, there are things you can do to minimize potential loss to your home and ensure your family's safety.

Develop a Family Plan

Create a Disaster Supply Kit

Have a Place to Go

Secure Your Home

Make a Pet Plan

Prepare for the Possibility of a Flood

Make sure any photos or videos of all of your important possessions are in a safe place. These documents will help you file an accurate and comprehensive flood insurance claim.

Store important documents and irreplaceable personal objects (such as photographs) where they won't get damaged. If major flooding is expected in your area, consider putting them in a storage facility.

Remember to talk to your insurance agent if you have questions or would like additional information.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

House Passes Flood Insurance Extension; Senate Must Still Vote

The House of Representatives has passed another temporary extension of the National Flood Insurance Program until Sept. 30, 2010.

The program has been suspended from issuing new policies since May 31. Reauthorization provisions have been embedded in controversial legislation on jobless benefits and tax breaks that has been twice voted down in the Senate.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How Thieves Are Planning On Hacking Into Your Car

Securing your vehicle used to consist of making sure all the doors were locked, keeping valuable items hidden out of sight and parking it in a safe, preferably off-street location.

But a new generation of cars includes more tech wizardry than a jumbo jet, raising consumer concerns that vehicles are more vulnerable than ever to light-fingered criminals. In these times, however, those light fingers are more likely to be twiddling on a laptop or remote-entry system than sticking a wire clothes hanger through a cracked window.

A new study proves that the movement away from pure mechanization to digitization is exposing us to new opportunities for vulnerability. It's becoming increasingly easier to access all vehicles controls from one central location. The car's ECU, or electronic control unit, is the brain of your grocery getter. A team of researchers from The University of Washington in Seattle and The University of California San Diego recently took on the task of seeing if they could control a car's systems through its ECU.

The two lead researchers for the project tested two identical 2009 model year vehicles (they did not reveal the name of the car), plugging their laptops into the controls for the ECU and running a software system. Their findings show that there are two main hacking threats to you car:

- Physical Access: "Someone -- such as a mechanic, a valet, a person who rents a car, an ex-friend, a disgruntled family member, or the car owner -- can, with even momentary access to the vehicle, insert a malicious component into a car’s internal network via the ubiquitous OBD-II port (typically under the dash). The attacker may leave the malicious component permanently attached to the car’s internal network or, as we show in this paper, they may use a brief period of connectivity to embed the malware within the car’s existing components and then disconnect."

- Wireless interfaces: "In our car we identified no fewer than five kinds of digital radio interfaces accepting outside input, some over only a short range and others over indefinite distance. While outside the scope of this paper, we wish to be clear that vulnerabilities in such services are not purely theoretical. We have developed the ability to remotely compromise key ECUs in our car via externally-facing vulnerabilities, amplify the impact of these remote compromises using the results in this paper, and ultimately monitor and control our car remotely over the Internet."

After running tests using software with their laptops plugged in, the researchers were able to disable braking systems, control main vehicle functions and even turn off the engine, all while the test vehicle was traveling at speed.

Security In Today's Cars

Cars' vital functions, including steering, brakes and startup largely run on a system of interconnected electronic control units that form the car's central nervous system. These units run on millions of lines of computer code. It's estimated that the average premium new car runs on about 100 million lines of computer code, while Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner requires just 6.5 million code to function.

Representatives from the Big Three told us, not surprisingly, that they are working hard to make sure security and privacy are paramount. All the while, consumer demand is creating something of a supercomputer in every vehicle.

Ford, GM and Chrysler all have introduced wireless internet systems that allow consumers to surf the internet while in or around the vehicle and download music and road-trip directions to an in-car computer. Most in-car wireless systems work in much the same way as a home-internet wireless connection and require a password to gain entry to the network, said Chrysler's Nick Cappa. This basic step, he says, prevents almost all security breaches of the car's wireless system.

Cappa says that the system offered by Mopar as an option on certain Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models is independent of, and not integrated with, a car's central electronics systems, including its hard drive and the media library.

"Think of its as a picnic table you can use in the vehicle but you can also detach and use outside the vehicle," he said.

Similarly, when a new user wishes to log-in to Ford's wireless internet system the driver must give their permission for a connection to be established, which prevents "piggybacking," according to company spokespeople. A music-encryption system also prevents anybody from removing or copying tunes from the car's on-board library by wireless connection or by plugging the hardware into another car. Its route finder information can be locked from prying eyes by a four-digit PIN code (similar to an ATM card's) when needed. Ford also says the SecuriLock engine-start system only works with a designated key that sends a unique signal code to a transponder in the engine amid some 72-million-billion code configurations (which would severely challenge the most dexterous of hackers).

While your ride seems to be safe at the moment, the threat looms ahead. All the while, it never hurts to park your car off-street and tuck away your valuables, either.

Monday, May 24, 2010

10 Smart Moves After A Car Accident

Tires squeal and you brace yourself for the inevitable sound of metal crunching. The actual accident is over in a few seconds, but what should you do afterwards? Here are 10 smart moves to make after you've been in a car accident.

1. Think safety first.
It's a given to think safety in a more serious crash, but the after affects of fender-benders can be dangerous too. While in many states, the law requires you to stop after a collision, it's important to pull out of any driving lanes, even if the traffic behind you is stopped. This is to avoid a secondary collision, as well as to not impede traffic flow.

If you are the front car in a collision, motion to the other driver and have him follow you to the closest spot where there's room for both of you to pull over safely. If you are parked in the breakdown lane, be sure to stay as far away from moving cars as possible as you exchange information and assess damage.

If you can't move your car out of traffic, stay in the car with your seat belt buckled and call 911. No matter where you are stopped, turn your hazard lights on or put out flares or an emergency triangle if it's safe to do so.

2. Check for injuries.
Even in a relatively minor collision, people can be hurt. First, look at yourself, in a mirror if possible. While your adrenaline will be flowing hard, stop and think about if any part of your body hurts or if you are dizzy, short of breath or have other symptoms of an injury. Once you decide you are okay, ask the others involved if they are hurt. If anyone is injured or even seems like they might be, call 911. Unless you have first aid training, don't move anyone who is injured unless they are at risk of further injuries because of their location.

3. Consider calling the police.
In many states, if no one is hurt, the cars involved are not blocking traffic and damage is under $1000, reporting the accident to the police is not required (New York and Massachusetts are two such places), but you may choose to make the call if you want a police report taken. If you think getting a report of the accident would be helpful in establishing fault or because you suspect fraud, then certainly make the call to request police assistance.

Sometimes, especially in cities where officers are busy responding to calls of injuries and lawbreakers, the police may not respond to this request for a minor accident. Even if they don't respond, you may be required to file a report yourself, if anyone is hurt or if the damage exceeds a certain amount. Check with your local police, Department of Motor Vehicles or insurance company to find out. Keep in mind though, that in many states, if a police report is filed, your insurance company will be notified of the accident, which could derail you if you have plans to keep the accident quiet, though not reporting it is illegal in many states.

4. Look for eyewitnesses.
Noting any eyewitnesses to the collision is a smart move, especially if there's any question of fault in the collision. Go to the eyewitnesses as quickly as possible to get the full name, street address and day and evening phone numbers for each witness. Even if no police report is taken, you can provide this info to your insurance company.

5. Make a plan if your car is being towed.
If the damage to your car is severe enough that it needs to be towed, take a few minutes to make a plan your next steps. Where do you want the car to be towed? Having it delivered to a dealer, mechanic or body shop you trust is ideal, even if you need to pay a bit because it's being towed further away. If you car is taken to the towing company's yard or other nearby location and you'll want it to go somewhere else later, you could end up paying for a second tow.

If your car is being towed, make sure to get all of your personal belongings out of it first. If these items are stolen, they won't be covered under your auto insurance, plus they may be things you need later.

6. Make notes.
In addition to the contact info of any eyewitnesses, take a moment to jot down the time of day as well as the street or highway where the collision occurred and the nearest cross-street or exit -- your insurance company will ask you for these details. It's also a good idea to note the road conditions, the weather, the speed limit sign, traffic signals and accident results, such as skid marks, since your insurance company may ask that information as well.

7. Take pictures.
If you have a camera, even in a cell-phone, take pictures of the damage (or lack of it) of all the cars involved, as well as any pictures that can help the insurance company understand how the accident occurred and possibly determine fault or fraud. If possible, photograph each car by standing at an angle from each wheel, so one side and either the front or rear of the car is visible in the frame. Take close-up pictures of any vehicle damage (from this accident or not) and, if appropriate, of any people involved. You might also want to photograph the items you took notes on.

8. Double check the other party's information.
Everyone knows to exchange information, but do so by writing down the info yourself by copying it from the person's driver's license and insurance card versus having them write it down for you. As you copy the info, ask if this is the person's current address and also compare the vehicle description, including the VIN, from the insurance card to the car itself. Make note of any discrepancies.

9. Call your insurance company.
Even in a fender bender with minimal damage, you are going to want to call your insurance company (and, in some states, you may be required to do so). Repair costs for even a new bumper and taillight can easily exceed a low deductible, and even seemingly minor damage to a car's exterior can reveal underlying damage once a body shop looks at the car more carefully. Be very cautious if you opt to try to handle the repair costs between the parties involved, check your state laws on this and decide in advance how to handle it if your car repair costs go up if they find more extensive damage once they have your car apart or if a person decides they are injured later.

10. Consider visiting a doctor.
Even if you are not seriously hurt, it may be wise to see a doctor within the day or so after the crash. Soreness and stiffness can be signs of a more serious injury and if they are, it should be diagnosed and treated promptly. While it's not right to take advantage of the system, it is appropriate to ensure that any medical issues that are a result of the accident are taken care of by the at-fault party. You don't want to wait until months later to discover the lingering problem you have is a result of the car accident.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Soiree Pelouse III: WONKA was a fundraiser that benefited Legacy Community Health Services, Houston GLBT Community and AssistHers.