Thursday, February 26, 2009

Laptop Recovery Insurance: Your Laptop Is At Risk!

Can you get your stolen laptop back?

There is a way that you can protect your laptop, and then retrieve your laptop after it’s been stolen.

The Ponemon Institute, a privacy risk management think tank, released an extensive study in June 2008 entitled “Airport Insecurity : The Case of Missing and Lost Laptops.”** They studied laptop security at 106 American airports and found that there is an average of 12,000 laptops lost, missing or stolen at American airports PER WEEK! The airport with the worst record is Los Angeles International, with about 1,200 per week. The nation’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s Hartsfield, was in eighth place with 450 per week.

Further, the study found that only 33% of the laptops within the airport’s Lost and Found Departments are ever reclaimed! That means that the remaining 67% of unclaimed laptops are either sold or disposed of by airport authorities. Can you imagine the amount of sensitive personal and business data contained in those laptops? No one knows what happens to that data, but it is ALL at risk. The Identity Theft risks are astronomical.

In a recovery case, three burglary suspects were arrested on February 1, 2008 by Albuquerque police, thanks to a stolen computer loaded with tracking software. The software is called LoJack for Laptops™, developed by Absolute Software. The tracking software told the police exactly where to find the suspects. The police were also able to recover thousands of dollars in other stolen property at the location.

Absolute Software is the leader in Computer Theft Recovery, Data Protection and Secure Asset Tracking™ solutions. It works this way: You install the LoJack for Laptops™ software and register it at the LoJack website. If the laptop is stolen, you notify your local police and notify the LoJack Recovery Team. The next time your computer is connected to the Internet, the laptop secretly notifies the Monitoring Center of its whereabouts. The Recovery Team can track its location, and provide police with the information they will need to get a search warrant and recover your laptop.

Pricing for LoJack for Laptops™ starts at only $39.99 per year.

My friend here in Atlanta, Cole Harrison, had his laptop stolen from his car recently. He had the Lojack system on the laptop, and notified them immediately when he discovered the theft. Lojack located the laptop the next day…in Thailand.

If you want protect your laptop so you can get it back after it’s been stolen, check out: Lojack boasts a 90% recovery rate for stolen laptops.

For only a small price, you can have the proper coverage you need to protect all your personal and business electronics. Be the smartest person on your block with the right protection. Be the hero to your business with the best coverage. YOU CAN DO IT!!

** To read the entire study, go to:

Friday, February 20, 2009

Employment Practices Liability: Is Your Business At Risk For a Lawsuit?

Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) is insurance that helps protect you against claims from your employees that result from the general conduct of your business.

Are you, the business owner, more likely to be sued by an outsider or by an employee?
The answer in most cases by a significant and growing an employee.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the average number of Employment Practices Liability (EPLI) cases file per year is a staggering 80,000 cases. According to a recent study, the average payout on an employee-related claim is up over 30% to approximately $180,000.

This new wave of litigation is not limited to large corporations. Mid-sized and small businesses are being devastated by EPL lawsuits. A recent case illustrates the problem.

A jury in Philadelphia decided in favor of a plaintiff who worked at a water treatment company with fifteen employees. The plaintiff was subject to national origin slurs and sued. After only deliberating for a half hour, the jury awarded the plaintiff $200,000 in back pay, $100,000 for emotional distress, and $265,000 for the plaintiff’s attorneys, for a total of $565,000.

Other crazy awards:

- A jury awarded $80.7 million to a UPS female supervisor who alleged a male supervisor poked her breast during an argument.

- A New York jury found that the NBA sexually discriminated when it failed to make a woman a regular season referee, awarding $100,000 in lost wages, and $8 million in punitive damages.

- State Farm settled a sex discrimination class action for $157 million

- Mitsubishi settled two sexual harassment cases arising out of the same incidents for $45 million

- Publix Supermarket announced an $81 million settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit

Here are only some of the ways that employees can file lawsuits against employers:

1. Wrongful termination of employment
2. Age discrimination
3. Failure to hire or promote
4. Breach of an implied employment contract
5. Negligent hiring or evaluation
6. Sexual or other workplace harassment
7. Retaliatory treatment
8. Infliction of emotional distress
9. Employment related misrepresentation
10. Violation of employment related laws
11. Adverse change in terms of employment
12. Wrongful reference (deprivation of career opportunity)
13. Failure to grant tenure
14. Invasion of privacy
15. Libel, slander or defamation

Businesses are being destroyed by employee lawsuits. The cost to employers includes defense costs and payment of damages. A business has to defend itself in a lawsuit whether or not there is ever a judgment awarded. It can cost thousands of dollars to simply respond to an EEOC charge without any lawsuit.

How You Can Protect Your Business

The best way to protect your business is by creating an Employee Handbook.

Take the time to create employment policies and procedures for your company. The very act of researching and writing down your procedures will enable you to evaluate how you run your business. Once you have written procedures in place and you take care to enforce those procedures, you can better defend your company against employee allegations and lawsuits.

Define hiring processes, and create checklists for the entire hiring process to make sure all laws and procedures are followed.

Define the employee disciplinary and/or termination procedures.

Once you have written the employee handbook, have your attorney review it before it is published.

Once it’s published, meet with every employee, either individually or as a group, and go over the handbook in detail. Require each employee to sign off, indicating that they have received a copy and had the Employee Handbook explained to the employee.

Then, take care to strictly enforce the employment procedures in the law and in your Employee Handbook. That also means that you must train your management team to follow the Employee Handbook procedures.

Insist on an exit interview for every employee laid off or terminated. At that interview, review all issues and have the employee sign off, saying that the issues have been explained, regardless of whether the employee agrees or not.

Finally, business should purchase Employment Practices Liability Insurance. EPLI policies typically cover claims of wrongful discharge, workplace harassment and discrimination. Key elements of coverage for an EPLI policy include defense costs for the business as well as coverage for claims and jury awards.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Worst Insurance Companies: The Top Ten Worst Insurance Companies in America

In 2008, the American Association for Justice released a 29-page report entitled “The Ten Worst Insurance Companies In America.” The report was the result of a comprehensive investigation of a blizzard of court documents, FBI records, state insurance department complaints and investigations, news stories from around the nation, and testimony and depositions from former insurance agents and adjusters. The final list includes companies that insure cars, homes, disability, health and life.

One thing that the report shows is that Allstate, State Farm and Liberty Mutual all hired famous management consultant McKinsey and Company to study how they could be more profitable. McKinsey came back with a strategy known as “The Three Ds...Deny, Delay and Defend.” All three companies have used this strategy aggressively to boost profits for their shareholders.

To read the report, go to:

The list is as follows:

10. Liberty Mutual

Not only has Liberty Mutual pulled out of Coastal states like Florida and Louisiana, but also Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland and big parts of New York.

9. Torchmark

A variety of company subsidiaries sell burial insurance, cancer insurance, and life insurance. The company has been accused of selling minority customers higher priced products than white customers. Its sales tactics have attracted frequent lawsuits from regulators and policyholders.

8. United Health

This health insurer has a reputation for health care reimbursement rates that are so low and so delayed that doctors report patient health is at risk.

7. Farmers

Owned by Swiss insurance giant Zurich Insurance, Farmers is consistently near the bottom of homeowners and auto satisfaction surveys conducted by JD Power and Consumer Reports. As an example of their “profits over people” attitude, note that after the 1994 Northridge CA earthquake, Farmers instituted an employee program called “Bring Back a Billion.” This was an effort to save the company a billion dollars in claims settlements.

6. Wellpoint

Wellpoint is the nation’s largest health insurer, covering over 28 million people. They have been found to routinely cancel policies on pregnant women and chronically ill patients. In 2007, the California Department of Insurance assessed a $12.6 million fine against Wellpoint for “serious violations” in their claims procedures. Wellpoint was also sued by 800,000 doctors for underpaying claims.

5. Conseco

Long-term care insurance is Conseco’s forte. And that usually affects the elderly most. Conseco takes advantage of the calendar, knowing that if it waits long enough, many policyholders submitting claims will die before their claim is paid.

4. State Farm

The largest property casualty insurer in America, who has a long reputation for delaying and denying claims. State Farm has recently announced that it has pulled out of the Mississippi and Florida markets entirely. In 1999, after a giant Oklahoma tornado event, homeowners file a class action lawsuit against State Farm, alleging that the insurer widely undervalued homes. The jury ruled that State Farm had acted “recklessly” and “with malice” toward its own policyholders. And don’t get me started on how State Farm acted after Katrina.

3. AIG

The world’s largest insurer has had massive financial problems of late, with the Congress negotiating a Federal bailout of the insurer in Fall 2008. But besides that, AIG has developed a reputation over the years as a company that fights claims aggressively.


This Chattanooga, TN based company is one of the nation’s leaders in disability insurance. UNUM has a long reputation for delaying and denying claims. If you want to read an infuriating book about this subject, read “Insult to Injury,” by Ray Bourhis. The author is an attorney that took on UNUM in court. UNUM is regularly the target of insurance department and media investigations for their claims handling tactics.

And...drumroll please...the AAJ choice for number one worst insurance company in America is....


The AAJ stated that the “good hands” of Allstate should be shown inside boxing gloves. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), complaints filed against Allstate were greater in number than most all of its major competitors. After Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Department of Insurance received over 1,200 complaints against Allstate, which is more than any other company. State Farm had over 700 complaints, and State Farm has the biggest share of the homeowners insurance market in Louisiana. Allstate embraces the McKinsey philosophy, “Delay, Deny and Defend.”

Allstate’s CEO Thomas Wilson summed up the strategies of all the companies when he said, “Our obligation is to earn a return for our shareholders.”

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Insurance Applications: 6 Ways To Make Sure Your Claim is Not Denied

Insurance applications are the first forms you’ll see when buying insurance. But if you’re not careful, that application could get your claim denied.

One of the first things that a claims adjuster will do when he receives your claim is ask the Underwriting Department to send him a copy of your application. Why? Because part of his investigation of your claim is to verify the information found on your application. Lots of times, adjusters find incorrect information on applications that allow the insurance company to deny the claim and even void the policy like it never occurred.

Let me give you a couple examples of denial that actually happened:

Example #1. A man bought car insurance in 2002. At the time their application was accepted, the only drivers were himself and his wife. They had a 10 year old daughter. In 2008, they had an automobile accident. The daughter is now 16 but does not drive. After the adjuster did his investigation, they received a letter from the insurance company that denied their claim. The letter said that the insured had failed to disclose a potential driver in the household. Even though they disclosed their daughters name and age in 2002, and the policy had renewed six times, the insurance company used a misinterpretation of policy language to deny a claim.

Example #2. A man applies for car insurance while married but separated. The application asks marital status, married or single. The man checks the box for “married.” He lists both himself and his wife as drivers. A few months later, he has an at-fault car wreck. His car is a total loss, he is being sued for negligence, and has medical bills of $5,000. The investigation finds that he was separated at the time of the acceptance of the application. The insurance company sends him a check for $525, which is his returned premium, and denies the claim, stating that the company would not have given the policyholder the “marriage discount” had they known he was separated.

So, how can you protect yourself from application errors? Here are six ways.

1. Fill out the application completely. Do not leave any boxes or lines blank

2. Do not sign the application until all of the information is completed.

3. Do not sign an application and allow the agent to complete it after you leave.

4. Once you sign the application, have the agent make you a copy of the application right then.

5. Once you receive your new policy, compare the information on your application with the terms and conditions of the policy.

6. Report changes in your policy promptly to your agent, like added drivers, deleted cars, or address changes.

If you will be very careful to do these six things, you can be confident that you will not have problems with your insurance company at claims time over your application.

Car Insurance Claims - Does Your Insurer Owe You Sales Tax?

More than half of the states in the USA require that the insurance company pay state sales tax when you replace your total loss vehicle. What those states do not mandate is that the insurance company has to tell you about the tax issue. You probably won’t get the sales tax unless you ask for it.

To find out if your state requires the extra sales tax payment, contact your state’s Department of Insurance.

No insurance company, whether it is your insurer, or another insurer who insures an at-fault driver, wants to pay you one dollar more than the lowest Actual Cash Value (ACV) that they can find. When the insurance company declares your car a total loss is when the strenuous negotiations begin.

Your mission...should you accept to prove that your car is worth its absolute highest value.

State sales tax percentages vary widely from state to state. Here in Georgia, sales tax is calculated on a county-by-county basis. In Cobb County, where I live, the sales tax is 5%. However, just across the county line in Fulton County, the sales tax is 7%. But in the City of Atlanta, sales tax is 8%.

Look at the numbers on a $30,000 automobile. If you lived in Cobb County at 5%, the insurance company would owe you an additional $1,500.00. If you lived in Atlanta at 8%, the amount would be $2,400.00.

If you do not demand the extra sales tax payment, you're leaving thousands of dollars on the table that you are likely entitled to collect.

Don’t allow the insurance companies to mislead you. The Actual Cash Value of the car must include the state sales tax.

Insurance Claims Adjusters: Five Secrets of Getting Your Way With Claims Adjusters

Insurance claims adjusters are, for the most part, very nice people in a tough job. They are caught in between the insurance company that wants them to control the claim settlement amount, and you, the policyholder or claimant, who wants the very highest settlement amount possible.

But I’m not nearly as concerned about them. If they don’t like their job, they can quit. Nobody is forcing them to be claims adjusters.

I’m mostly concerned about you, the policyholder.

The book that I wrote, “Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED!” shows consumers all the ways that they can take control of their insurance claims, and add hundreds or even thousands more dollars to their claim settlements. Many of the strategies in the book are confrontational. But you can learn to confront honestly without unpleasantness.

Insurance companies have games and scams that they use to delay claims and minimize settlements. Policyholders and claimants are usually placed under financial hardship when they have an insured loss. Few of the people I’ve ever met who had a claim could afford to repair or replace their damaged goods out of their bank account. Most of the time, people depend upon the restitution they receive from the insurance company.

Insurance companies know this, and rely upon it. They know that delays will place pressure on policyholders and claimants, and that makes them more willing to accept lower settlements.

Back in September 2008 I wrote and posted an article about “Dealing with Adjusters.” It has been one of my most popular articles. Thousands of people have read it. But today I want to put a spin on that article and make an even more obvious point.

When you are dealing with claims adjusters, make sure that you are ALWAYS pleasant, well-mannered, and polite. You can’t control them, but you CAN control YOU.

You need to “nice them to death!” Make sure you are doing the following:

1. Speak calmly whether in person or by phone, no matter what your level of frustration may be.

2. Make your requests for payment, documents or any other requests politely, and make them in writing.

3. Be firm but respectful when you are using a claim strategy. Being demanding will only make the adjuster feel threatened, and he will want to resist your demand to prove he cannot be controlled by you.

4. When you write a letter, be sure that you are polite and respectful. Simply state what you want them to do and remember to say “please” and “thank you”...just like your mother taught you.

5. Do not, under any circumstances, lose your temper! Words said in anger are impossible to retract. You can apologize as much as you want, but better to say things for which you will not have to apologize. Be in control. If you feel like blowing up at your adjuster, end the meeting or phone conversation and come back another time to finish your business.

I promise you that you will never regret maintaining your composure when you are immersed in the claims process.

Insurance For Stupid People: the Top Ten Funniest Coverage Decisions of 2008

People regularly do stupid things that cause someone else an injury. Then the inevitable lawsuit gets filed, and then an insurance clam gets filed, too. But occasionally, the courts get it right in their decisions, and we get to make fun of the plaintiffs and defendants.

My friend Randy Maniloff is a genius attorney, a partner in the Business Insurance Practice Group at White & Williams in Philadelphia. He recently wrote an article that showcased these court decisions, and gave me permission to share them with you.

So, in order of dumbness (lowest to highest), here is the Top Ten Funniest Coverage Decisions of 2008:

10. A motivational speaker repeatedly urged a seminar participant to break a board with her bare hands. After she tried and was successful only in injuring her hand, she sued the speaker. In Reese v. Alea London Ltd., the Court decided that the speaker’s policy had a Professional Services exclusion that precluded coverage. I guess “mind over matter” doesn’t include lumber. I also guess you can be “board” to tears in this guy’s seminars.

9. The insured was playing around his backyard pool and tried to throw someone in the pool. However, he miscalculated the strength he’d need to complete the throw, and instead threw the victim onto the pool’s steps, seriously injuring the victim. State Farm denied coverage. In State Farm Fire & Casualty v. Superior Court, the Court decided that coverage was owed since the insured’s only intent was to get the victim wet. Note to the insured: next time you want to get a woman wet, take her out for dinner and dancing.

8. The insured got into a fight, and got his hand stuck in the glass of a sliding glass door. He shot the glass to free his hand and the bullet ricocheted into the chest of a woman inside the house. In Shelter Mutual Insurance v Wheat, the Court decided there was no coverage because the injury was not caused by an “accident.” In other news, Bob Vila will be hosting a memorial service for the door.

7. The insured business hired violent offenders to go door-to-door and sell magazines. Their aggressive sales tactics caused.injuries and at least one death. In Nautilus Insurance Company v. Reuter, the parties are waiting to see which way the Court interprets the policy term “occurrence” to figure out if there’s coverage. The Girl Scouts need to hire these guys for next year’s cookie drive.

6. A middle school student caused injuries to a teacher’s aide when, in the middle of a cafeteria food fight, he struck the aide with a garbage can. In Medrano v. State Farm Insurance Company, the Court decided that the insurer had to provide defense under the Homeowners policy because the Complaint implied that the injuries were unintentional. In the student’s defense, he couldn’t tell the difference in the garbage or school cafeteria food.

5. A karaoke singer was waving around an ice cream scoop (her microphone?) when it flew out of her hand and hit someone, causing injuries. In Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance v. Kim, the Court decided that the insurance company had to provide defense for the singer under her Homeowners liability coverage, since the Court didn’t buy the argument that the injuries weren’t because of negligence. I wonder if she was singing “Tutti Fruiti” at the time of the incident.

4. An insured restaurant had a gas grille at a tailgate party at a Jimmy Buffet concert. The gas grille wouldn’t light, so they poured gasoline on it, and the explosion caused injuries. In United States Liability Insurance Co. v. Harbor Club, the Court denied coverage to the restaurant because the incident was not on the insured’s premises. Yummy...toasted Parrotheads. I wonder if the smoke from this explosion could be distinguished from the marijuana cloud at the concert.

3. The insured caused injuries to an old friend by saying hello with his “signature greeting,” which was putting the old friend in a headlock and squeezing his head while asking him how he was doing. In Sanford v. Century Surety Co., the Court denied coverage because the injury was not caused by an accident and the “assault and battery” exclusion applied. Imagine how the insured must greet those who are not his friends.

2. The homeowner caused injuries and one death to party guests when the host used gunpowder as a propellant to shoot his potato gun. In Kiser v. Coffee, coverage was denied because injury was reasonably expected from this intentional act. The potato in question is now in a low earth orbit, visible in a clear night sky.

And the Number One Funniest Coverage Decision of 2008 is....

1. The insured’s minor son injured his friend by kicking him twice in the groin after learning that his friend’s sister did not like him. In American National Property & Casualty v. Hanna, coverage was denied because the injury was not caused by an accident. Love hurts.....

A big “thank you” to Deborah Richards, Geri Lumsden and Jarrett Smith for their smart-assed assistance with the one-liners in this article.

Stay tuned. I’m sure there will be plenty of court cases in 2009 for our next Top Ten List!

Home Foreclosures: How To Protect Your Home During Foreclosure

America is going through a foreclosure meltdown which will only get worse in the short run. Tens of millions of loans are in default, and the lenders either have foreclosed or are in the process of foreclosure.

However, there are some very real issues that you need to deal with during a foreclosure. Failure to address these issues could result not only in you losing your house, but being caught uninsured at the time of a disastrous loss, like a house fire.

Stated another way...what would you do if you had a major fire, wind or water loss during a foreclosure? Are you sure you’re covered?

First, let’s look at homeowners insurance and your loan escrow account.

If your homeowners insurance is being paid by your lender through an escrow account, that’s fine. However, if your loan is in foreclosure, you cannot be sure that the premium is being paid by that lender. If you have stopped making loan payments, you have also stopped adding money to your escrow account. Your homeowners insurance could have lapsed for non-payment.

So, the lender will “force place” a policy covering your home, but only for the loan balance, and charging it against your loan amount. But that policy will only cover the dwelling, no contents or liability coverage. The lender is only interested in protecting their loan.

But, sometimes, lenders make errors and premiums don’t get paid. So, your strategy to protect yourself is to make sure that the premium on your homeowners insurance is paid, even during a foreclosure.

But I recommend that you keep the policy in place just a little while after the foreclosure has been completed. Why?

Because we’re now learning that many foreclosures are being done without proper documentation by the lenders. Some highly placed politicians have noticed this, and are starting to make waves.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D- Ohio) is the senior woman in the House of Representatives, and the longest serving Democratic woman in House history. Her district includes Toledo, which these days is looking more and more like a ghost town.

Kaptur has recently been seen on CNN, promoting the “Produce The Note” initiative. In a recent interview, she stated that many mortgages have been sold and re-sold numerous times by lenders. She said that a lender who is foreclosing may not even possess the original loan document with the borrower’s signature on it. The biggest problem is that because more than one lender has owned your loan, more than one lender could foreclose on you for the same loan. It’s already happened many times.

There’s a great website called Consumer Warning Network that shows borrowers how to fight back.

Go to: Consumer Warning Network

Don’t just willingly accept that your lender did the foreclosure correctly. Investigate and fight back! Your financial future could be at stake!

Insurance Regulation: Florida Braces As State Farm Waves Goodbye

This week, State Farm Insurance Company, the largest private property insurer in the state, announced that they are pulling out of Florida after sustaining huge losses and being denied rate increases.

I am no fan of the games and scams of the insurance industry. Even though insurance makes our modern lives and way of life possible, it is fraught with problems. Insurance companies regularly mistreat their own customers. They delay, deny and minimize claims as standard operating procedure. But they also pay a lot of claims, too, and deserve to make a profit.

Into this environment come the insurance regulators of the 50 states. They try to protect the consumer. Their regulations swing from too much to too little, just like a pendulum. But, right now in Florida, the insurance regulators’ pendulum has swung to over-regulation. The regulators and state legislators have bungled the insurance marketplace in Florida, and consumers are going to get burned.

The Florida Department of Insurance has not produced evidence that the insurance market has failed, which might explain stiff price regulation in lieu of simply allowing competition in the marketplace to regulate premiums.

During the last 15-year period, Florida insurers have been unprofitable as a group. Dozens of insurers have stopped operating in the state. Simply denying rate increases does not benefit consumers. As insurers stop writing policies in Florida, reducing competition makes consumers worse off, with higher premiums and limited choices.

In response to insurance company exits since Hurricane Andrew, Florida legislators created Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (CPIC), an unprofitable state-run insurer that sells its policies below cost. This ridiculous pricing, paired with insurer exits, makes CPIC the insurer of over half of Florida's homeowners. Because CPIC is losing money, and owned by the state, these losses will eventually require taxpayers and consumers to bail out yet another insolvent corporation.

With State Farm’s departure from Florida, CPIC may end up insuring 80% of the homes in the state. CPIC is nearly insolvent right now. All it will take is one more major catastrophic hurricane to finish it off. However, it will be the Florida consumers and taxpayers that will be finished off when they are forced by the state legislature to bail out the state-run insurer.

The over-regulation of insurance companies was also recently shown in New Jersey. Just like in Florida, New Jersey lawmakers and regulators had over-regulated the car insurance marketplace to the point that insurance companies left the state in droves. New Jersey drivers found it nearly impossible to buy car insurance at any price. In 2003, the lawmakers and regulators regained their sanity and enacted reforms that brought back competitive pricing to car insurance. Rates are dropping and citizens can once again find affordable car insurance in New Jersey.

State regulators sometimes do more harm than good. Sometimes they get it right.