bitcoin

Bitcoin

Bitcoin is an online payment invented in 2008 and released it as open-source software in 2009. The system is peer-to-peer. Users can transact directly without needing an intermediary.

Bitcoin. The ledger uses its own unit of account also called bitcoin. The system works without a central repository or single administrator, which has led the US Treasury to categorize it as a decentralised virtual currency. Bitcoin is often called the first cryptocurrency.

Bitcoins are created as a reward for payment processing work in which users offer their computing power to verify and record payments into the public ledger. This activity is called mining and is rewarded by transaction fees and newly created bitcoins. Besides mining, bitcoins can be obtained in exchange for different currencies, products and services.

Bitcoin But Sagalow said the currency has moved away from its dark past and has been embraced by Silicon-Valley funded corporations who are interested in it from a technological standpoint as well as its investment potential.

With an estimated $3.5 billion worth of Bitcoins in circulation 82,000 merchants now accept Bitcoins. Eight million users have set up Bitcoin “wallets: – accounts where they store and manage the currency. The number is growing.

Bitcoins are a way of using and moving money without a bank account or credit card. The currency fluctuations in value against other currencies, just as the U. S. dollar and many others do. Recently, a Bitcoin was worth about $226 in U. S. dollars.

Users can purchase Bitcoins, store them in a virtual wallet linked to their smartphone and then scan their account information at participating establishments to pay for merchandise or for other purposes.

Along with a rocky startup linked to the illegal drug trade, insurers that consider the possibilities of protecting Bitcoin users have other lingering concerns. For one thing, Bitcoin has some volatility, so you can’t have the same approach to storing it as you would a commodity. Volatility in price is one of the things carriers are concerned about. An upward move in price can be beneficial to an owner, but trying to understand exactly how a Bitcoin is created and what causes its price movements is a very complex problem for insurers. In addition, the security of Bitcoin use is still untested in the larger market.

Bitcoins held by an individual or business are protected in much the same way a safe deposit box at a bank secures valuable. Once stored in a virtual wallet, the currency can only be moved or accessed through the use of two “keys” – or codes. One held by the Bitcoin owner and the other held publicly. A person could lose the thumb drive that has the private key on it, then they are no longer able to unlock the Bitcoin wallet.

Investment in Bitcoins has been relatively robust. The growth in investment so far in the short life of the currency has been stronger than the growth of internet-related investment during a similar period in its startup.

Venture capital companies have invested more than $670 million worth of Bitcoins into security-related enterprises. Insurers have viewed Bitcoin use as a cyber security risk. There is a distinction between insuring Bitcoin value and covering the management of a Bitcoin company. The price of the currency cannot be insured but the company could be covered like any other Directors and Officers insurance.

Bitcoin theft insurance is available, however it is pricey and there are only a few policies but over time more people will get involved and there will be more consistency in the security of the underwriting.

An interesting aspect of Bitcoin is the anonymity of users. While every Bitcoin transaction is the anonymity of users. While every Bitcoin transaction is digitally recorded, parties to the transactions are identified only by account numbers, not names. The anonymity seems to be part of Bitcoin appeal for many users.

Any transaction that is done via email leaves an electronic “track” that can be followed back to the user, so the anonymity is hardly complete.

The vast majority of people in the world do not have bank accounts or credit cards, but many of them do have smart phones.

Bitcoins could become a simple and reliable currency for millions of people. Bitcoin is the cutting edge of where monetary systems may be going, although this would not happen overnight.

If Bitcoin is going to survive as a digital currency, it is going to have to convince investors that their holdings are safe. There has been a huge problem lately as two exchanges recently shut down due to hacker attacks, drawing unwanted headlines and adding fuel to detractors who believe cryptocurrencies are untrustworthy stores of wealth.

Falcon Global Capital, a San Diego firm launched a fund this month that will offer investors access to insurance should their bitcoins suddenly disappear, as they have for other unfortunate believers operating in the MX GOX or Flexcoin exchanges.

Nepal earthquake

Nepal Earthquake

The earthquake that struck Nepal on 26 April 2015 caused about $2 billion in economic losses in the country and only a fraction of the cost will be incurred by insurers, according to Kinetic Analysis Corporation. Gorkha district was the epicenter of the 7.8 earthquake.

The Nepal earthquake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest that killed 17 people,making it the deadliest day in the history of climbing on the world’s highest peak.

The rush of ice and snow swept through the base camp where climbers were preparing to ascend the mountain.

Damage in India could cost an additional $800 million, according to figures from the disaster-modeling firm that include property damage and long-term business interruption costs. Less than 1 percent of the losses are covered by insurance. The estimates exclude costs for immediate needs such as food.

Chuck Watson from Kinetic said that most developing countries do not really have mature insurance industries. The magnitude 7.8 earthquake and aftershocks killed more than 4, 000 people and displaced millions from their homes.

Nepal has a gross domestic product that is smaller than any of the 50 US states. Its 28 million people have the lowest spending power of any Asian country apart from Afghanistan.

Nepal’s insurers collected premiums of about $277 million in 2013, with most of those funds for life coverage. Spending on property-casualty coverage, such as auto and home insurance, is less than $4 per capita annually in Nepal, compared with almost $2,300 in the United States.

The costliness earthquake for the industry was in 2011, when more than 15,000 people were killed and insurers had losses of about $40 billion in Japan, a figure that also includes costs tied to a tsunami.

The Government’s Safe Travel website has upgraded the risk of travelling to Nepal to “high” and advised against all “tourist and other non-essential travel”.

Southern Cross Travel Insurance customers have been warned that those who choose to travel while the warning remains in place will not be covered against any claims incurred as a result of the earthquake.

The earthquake has led to a surge at websites offering policies to cover homes and their contents. Such policies are of two types. One covers the structure and construction costs in the event of damage to the property due to natural calamities while the other insures belongings and household contents.

A similar spike in demand was experienced during the Jammu and Kashmir floods, the Uttarakhand floods and the Sikkim earthquake.

driverless car

Autonomous vehicles

It is no longer a question of if but when autonomous vehicles (AVs) will hit the road. Vehicles with varying levels of self-driving capability, ranging from single-lane highway driving to autonomous valet parking to traffic jam autopilot, will start to become available to consumers as soon as mid-2015 or early 2016.

Aggressive players in virtually every segment of the automotive value chain have unveiled, or are conducting pilot programs of, partially or fully autonomous vehicles or enabling technologies in locations around the world. Audi, for example, presented its highly autonomous A7 model, which has highway driving capability, at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The car had driven itself to the show from San Francisco – a distance of 550 miles.

BMW has tested its autonomous Series 2 model on closed tracks and city streets. Daimler is testing both highly and fully autonomous vehicles in the U. S. and Germany. Tesla and GM plan to roll out models capable of hands-free highway driving in the summer of 2015 and 2016, respectively. Nissan has already tested its Autonomous Drive technology, which enables highly autonomous functionality, on public roads in Japan. The company plans the commercial launch of a model with traffic-jam autopilot i late 2016.

Volvo and various Swedish government bodies in 2014 launched the “Drive Me” initiative, in which 100 self-driving cars navigate public roadways in everyday conditions in and around the city of Gothenberg. The projects first test cars are already on the road. The prototypes of Google’s AVs have been widely publicised.

Meanwhile, Wageningen University, in the Netherlands, plans to introduce a driverless taxi later this year. The vehicle, one of the first of its kind, will operate between campus locations. Milton Keynes, a planned community in the UK, is developing self-driving “public transport pods”, for rollout in 2017. Last year, Singapore conducted a two-month test of driverless vehicles, in which 500 people tried out self-driving buggies that lied the paths of the gardens in the city’s Jurong Lake District.

Later this year, the city will begin testing AV jitneys that will convey people for short distances at low speeds in another part of town. The object of the test is to observe how AVs perform in real traffic conditions on public roads with pedestrians and bicyclists at intersections.

Suppliers are preparing for the AV future as well. Bosch, Continental, Delphi Automotive, Mobileye, Valeo, Velodyne and Nvidia, to name a few, are among the suppliers that are in the advanced stages of testing the positioning, guidance and processing technology needed to make AVs a commercial reality.

A study by The Boston Consulting Group demonstrates that consumers clearly perceive how AVs could make driving safer and exert downward pressure on their insurance, repair and maintenance cost. Respondents who said that they’d buy a partially autonomous vehicle in the next five years or so cited lower insurance premiums, increased safety and hands-free highway driving as the leading reason for doing so.

Most accidents are caused by human error so if this factor can be minimised by taking control of the moving vehicle away from the driver, the accident rate should tumble. Data from the Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) already show a reduction in property damage liability and collision claims for cars equipped with forward collision warning systems, especially those with automatic braking. The exact percentage varied depending on the car manufacturer.

Some aspects of insurance will be impacted as autonomous cars become the norm. There will still be a need for liability coverage, but over time the coverage could change, as suggested by the 2014 RAND study on autonomous vehicles, as manufacturers and suppliers and possibly even municipalities are called upon to take responsibility for what went wrong.

Insurance is state-regulated. Each jurisdiction has its own set of rules and regulations for auto insurance (and so far for self-driving cars). Basically, there are two types of liability systems. In some states liability is based on the no-fault concept, where insurers pay the injured party regardless of fault, and in others it is based on the tort system.

Will the auto insurance system change to be more uniform with the arrival of self-driving vehicles and will the federal government play a larger role.

Initially, many of the traditional underwriting criteria such as the number of and kind of accidents an applicant has had, the miles he or she expects to drive and where the car is garaged will still apply, but the make, model and style of car may assume a greater importance. The implication of where a car is garaged and driven might be different if there are areas set aside, such as dedicated lanes, for automated driving.

During the transition to wholly autonomous driving, insurers may try to rely more on telematics devices, known as “black boxes” that monitor driver activity. Some drivers may object to them based on concerns about privacy. Usage-based insurance policies which depend on data about the driver’s behaviour submitted by an electronic device in the driver’s car, have attracted a smaller than expected percentage of the driving population, possibly because people do not want to be monitored.

drone

Use of Drones

U. S. companies including insurers and aerospace manufacturers are urging federal aviation regulators to speed up the use of drones in disaster response and relief operations in the United States.

The consulting firm 32 Advisors proposes use of drones for purposes ranging from response planning and damage assessment to supply delivery and Wi-Fi and cellular phone relay services.

The view from above is key for humanitarian response, which explains why satellite imaging has played a pivotal role in relief operations for almost two decades now. Satellites do however present a number of limitations, including cost, data sharing restrictions, cloud cover, and the time needed to acquire images.

In contrast drones can capture aerial imaging at a far higher resolution, move quickly and at a much lower cost. Unlike satellites, members of the public can actually own drones. This means that disaster-affected communications can launch their own drones in response to a crisis.

Groups like SkyEye in the Philippines and CartONG in Haiti are actively training local communities to operate their own drones for disaster-preparedness purposes.

April 24 2015 is the deadline for public comment on newly proposed FAA drone regulations. The 52 page report from 32 Advisors is sponsored by companies that are involved in drone technology or hope to use the devices to cope with hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires and other disasters. The sponsors include Boeing Co, Lockheed Martin Corp, United Parcel Service inc, IBM Corp, Willis Group Holdings Ltd and Zurich North America.

The use of drones for civil and commercial operations is officially banned in the United States, unless the operation wins FAA approval under a process that many have found to be too slow. The proposed rules that would lift the ban are not expected to be finalised until late 2016 or early 2017.

More than 1700 migrants are believed to have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to southern Europe this year, with some 800 deaths occurring in one incident mid-April. The International Organisation for Migration has warned that the death toll could exceed 30,000 by the end of the year. The team conducted test flights at a simulated disaster city at Texas A&M University. Using infrared cameras, the aircraft could spot people trapped in the rubble and relay these images back to humanitarian response teams for more effective delivery of aid.

Drones could also be used to identify structural damage to buildings, helping victims with claiming insurance and speeding up the process by which communities can be rebuilt. However, the researchers found that for drones to be effective in such missions, they need to get into the air within 24 hours of a disaster.

Aerial, marine and ground robots have been deployed at 35 disaster events, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Typhoon Haiyan, which killed over 6,000 people in southeast Asia in 2011.

Small marine machines were used to clear underwater debris after the Haiti earthquake in order to allow aid shipments to arrive.

The use of drones on off-shore oil rigs is also being researched, where machines can assist with raising the alarm when workers fall overboard.

hacking

Cyber Insurance Market

The cyber insurance market is booming due to rising cyber attacks. Among the fastest growing insurance niches, cyber insurance products cover operational risks affecting confidentiality, availability or integrity of information and technology assets.

Its growth is led mainly by financial institutions. These institutions are performing cyber risk management. Demand is also driven by regulatory pressures that will require all enterprises to notify individuals if their personal data is breached.

As organisations become more reliant on data, and more of their business is conducted over digital channels, they will place increasing value on protecting that data.

Over the past few years there have been high profile and costly breaches, This is also driving the demand for cyber insurance products. Few insurance companies have a clear understanding of what “good” cyber security looks like for their customers. They are therefore unable to assess whether their customers are taking the right precautions to properly manage their risk .

Cyber risk is not an IT issue, it is a business problem. Until recently, cyber insurance was considered a nice-to-have supplement to existing insurance coverage. Cyber coverage is now becoming a must-have.

The cyber threat is pervasive. Attacks are increasing. Cyber attack trends are also shifting constantly. An attack can come from multiple directions and in multiple forms. In this complex, dynamic threat landscape, the ability to accurately assess risk becomes a huge undertaking.

Five out of six companies with more than 2,500 employees were targeted in cyber attacks in 2014,representing a 40% increase last year, according to Symantec’s annual internet security threat report.Hackers are becoming more sophisticated, introducing more and better malware to their campaigns. More than 317 million new pieces of malware were created in 2014,meaning almost a million new threats were released daily.

Businesses are increasingly backing up their data and apps in a secure, off-site cloud environment. The cloud is faster than other options and typically offers the most protection at the lowest cost. Recovery in the cloud requires no travel and no extra hardware. It offers extreme levels of reliability.

Kaspersky Labs describes hooded “money mules” waiting at ATMs, controlled remotely to dispense cash at a particular time without the need for a bank card. The reported losses potentially exceed US $1 billion. The criminal activity spans Russia, The U. S., Europe and China and is likely to involve Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

It is understood that the attacks began with a spear-phishing email designed to look like a legitimate communication. The email in fact delivered malware which was capable of exploiting vulnerabilities in certain Microsoft products, opening a backdoor to the bank’s systems leading to the attackers seizing control of the ATMs and bank accounts.

The Kaspersky Report states that the stolen funds were transferred out of the targeted financial institutions to bank accounts in the U. S. and China, taking two to four months to steal between $2.5 million and $10 million from each bank.

The scale of these thefts is a reminder of how such acts are a national threat with the ability to destabilise financial markets and systems. Understandably, cyber security is receiving considerable regulatory scrutiny.

construction

Hot insurance market

In 2015, it would appear that construction is a hot insurance market. According to Lockton Companies Inc., the world’s largest privately held insurance brokerage firm, construction payrolls are increasing and more projects are being developed.

Dodge Data and Analytics provides data, news and insights to better inform construction professionals. Total U. S. construction starts for 2015 are projected to rise 9 percent to $612 billion, almost double from the 2014’s estimated 5 percent to $564 billion.

Dodge predicts that in 2015:

  • Commercial building will increase 15 percent;
  • Industrial building will advance 9 percent;
  • Single family housing will rise by 15 percent;
  • Multifamily housing will increase 9 percent;
  • Public works will be up by 5 percent.

The Dodge Report, however, anticipates electric utilities will slide 9 percent continuing the current downward trend. Furthermore, manufacturing plant construction will settle back to 16 percent. The Conning Report projects 8.4 percent growth over the next five years for the principal small business market from $58 billion premiums in 2013 to $63 billion by 2018.

It is no surprise that tech-related industries are really hot. Computer technology in general is an industry enjoying healthy growth. IT services are performing particularly well. Whether it is offering on-site management systems or designing systems, the sales growth in this sector grew by 15 percent in the past year. Business investment specifically geared towards extending the capabilities of cloud, social, mobile and big data will accelerate and account for 30 percent of total IT spending and nearly all of the industry’s growth during 2015.

According to International Data Corp. (DC), the worldwide markets for software, services and analytics related to big data will reach $125 billion in 2015. The edge of the network will continue to extend into the physical world with more “smart” cars, commercial buildings, homes, industrial equipment and wearables connecting to the Internet. IDC estimates the overall global market for the Internet of Things related hardwares, software and analytics enabling nearly 15 billion “internet aware” devices will grow 14 percent to $1.7 trillion during 2015. This represents a hot insurance market.

Data security and protection will continue to offer opportunities to brokers and agents selling cyber-related coverages. Studies show that most cyber insurance is bought by larger companies with more than $1 billion revenue.

An exceptionally hot insurance market will result as an interest in the marijuana business accelerates for some niche specialists . According to governing.com, 23 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws legalising marijuana in some form. Four of those states, namely Washington, Colorado, Alaska and Oregon have legalised it for recreational purposes. Legal cannabis markets in the U. S. are expected to grow 700 percent over the next five years.This business presents opportunities for insurers as these enterprises will for the most part need some type of insurance coverage. These new enterprises would be in the market for workers’ compensation, business interruption,theft, products liability, cargo insurance as well equipment breakdown and cyber liability,

The American Bar Association reported in 2014 that the trend towards more dangerous and extreme sports is staggering. Sports such as “Tough Mudder” and triathlons offer hot insurance market opportunities for insurers due to the risks involved with these different sports. Insurance against major injuries, paralysis and even death would need to be covered.

Fitness tracker

Fitness could mean lower life insurance premiums

Companies who manufacture and market devices like the Fitbit or Jawbone Up are gearing themselves to play a big role in how individual and group health insurance premiums are decided. This could mean that health insurance premiums could change daily and not annually as is the current trend. Fitness could mean lower life insurance premiums.

One in every ten American adults owns a fitness tracker and it is expected that fitness devices will become more widespread over the next decade. Other programs similar to this are available in other parts of the world. People who get up in the morning and jog for miles will get rebates. Individuals who are couch potatoes and can barely make it to the kitchen to fetch a soda will be paying more.

When it all comes to the push, people with higher incomes are going to find that they are healthier and therefore benefit from higher rebates as they are more likely to be in a favorable position to purchase better quality devices which monitor steps, breathing rate, apps that can sense the onset of chronic illnesses or stress.

Some companies are even considering punishment for unhealthy behaviour being recorded by a wearable. Fitness wearables would go beyond giving doctors deeper access to your data.

These tracking gadgets play a major role in car insurance for some Americans. Progressive offers drivers a small device that they plug into their dashboards so that the company can monitor driving habits over a 30 day period. Safe drivers are then eligible for a discount.

Insurers could do the same with health care as the $2.6 trillion health care bill is driven by behaviours and bad decisions regarding obesity and diabetes which could result in increased insurance premiums. Data points such as BMI (body mass index) are already used by insurers.

Microsoft is working on a smart watch that will measure continuous heart rate over days and weeks. Temperature and blood-glucose monitoring is on the table for wearables as well. Last year Apple lured data scientists from the now defunct company C8 MediSensors, which had regulatory approval for a non-invasive optical glucose monitor. That raised suspicions Apple wanted to put a glucose monitor in its forthcoming iWatch.

One large insurer, Cigna, launched a program where it distributed armbands made by bodymedia to thousands of the employees at one of its corporate customers. Early results showed that a number of employees were on the verge of developing diabetes. These employees made lifestyle changes and improved their risk profiles.

Autodesk bought fitbit trackers and sold them to their employees at a discount. BP with 14, 000
employees chose to wear a free Fitbit Zip. In exchange they let the company track their steps. If they crossed one million steps, they gained points that could go towards lower insurance premiums.

Wyoming Medicaid launched a smartphone app for pregnant women in partnership with mobile health engagement platform developer Wildflower Health. Wildflower is an app for pregnant women that measures data such as weight gain and other pregnancy milestones. This app helps women keep track of their pregnancy with reminders, weekly ultrasound videos that show how the baby is supposed to look at each stage of the pregnancy, and daily advice. If women have a more immediate question, the app is connected to a free 24-7 nurse line, so they can talk to Wyhealth staff. A lite version exists for any woman to use this app, but this version does not have a nurse hotline.

A brief overview of wearable technology:

Pebble Steel: Equal parts fashionable and functionable, the Pebble Steel leaps to the top of the smartwatch heap, but does so by improving existing tech rather than adding something totally new. ‘
Price: $184.28 – $229.99

Jawbone Up 24: If having a screen is not a priority, the Jawbone Up24’s superb app, clever advice and comfy fit are hard to resist.
Price: $55.99 – $149.99

Garmin Forerunner 15:
It lack of Bluetooth notwithstanding, the affordable Garmin Forerunner 15 is otherwise a great health tracking wristwatch for runners.
Price: $163.99 – $170.00

Fitbit Charge HR:
Fitbit Charge HR adds heart rate tracking to an already solid fitness band at a great price, but all the kinks do not feel fully ironed out yet.
Price: $149.95 – $149.99

Samsung Gear VR:
The Gear VR Innovation Edition is a cool and very promising entry ticket for early adopters looking for an affordable taste of virtual reality.
Price: $270.00

Pebble Watch:
New apps and software give the original Pebble a welcome boost.
Price: $149.99

Misfit Flash:
The Misfit Flash is a versatile, easy-to-use and extremely affordable fitness tracker that can be worn swimming, too, and it even kind of works as a watch.
Price: $32.99 – $49.99

LG G Water R:
Although its stark design and beautiful face makes this the first smart watch you might actually be happy to be seen wearing, its Android Wear Software has a long way to go before its anything more than a passing novelty.
Price: $299.99 – $314.99

Samsung Gear 2 Neo:
The Gear 2 Neo offers the best balance of features and price among Samsung’s three 2014 smart watches, but it falls short of must-have status.
Price: $168.99 – $199.99

the Internet of Things

the Internet of Things

IBM has developed an affiliation with The Weather Company and in doing so the technology corporation hopes to save lives. The aim of this alliance is to incorporate enormous amounts of data from the Internet of Things and cloud computing with weather forecasting systems so as to anticipate meteorological circumstances in an efficient manner.

There will be 2.2 billion global forecasting points which can generate more than 10 billion weather forecasts a day. This grid will accumulate data from over 100,000 sensors and aircraft, as well as smartphones, buildings and motor vehicles.

From a business, health and safety context, this could be an enormous game changer for the insurance industry because WSI, the B2B division of the Weather Company is hoping that the alliance with the IBM cloud will allow its data to also incorporate supply chain economics and customer patterns, yielding important insights into businesses worldwide.

As an example, improved weather prediction analytics will provide more advanced observation of approaching hail storms. People could be warned about imminent storms before they happen, since insurance companies pay over $1 billion every year in claims for hail damage. Tests have been done with hundreds of thousands of policyholders and discovered that a warning that hail could be hitting their cars in the next half an hour, motivated about 50% to take action to protect their vehicles. Dealerships can be assisted in preventing large scale damage to their businesses by moving vehicles under cover or following suggestions that facilities increase heat in anticipation of a deep freeze.

Insurance companies will be able to use this technology to deal with claims more efficiently as well as assisting with disaster relief. Text messages could be sent regarding tornadoes and information regarding the geographical positions of relief stations for victims of tornado-hit locations. Clients could send digital photos of household damage to insurance brokers thus expediting claims procedures.

By the end of 2015, it is anticipated that 1 trillion devices will be connected to the Internet, including many of our cars. By 2019, it is predicted that there will be 5.6 billion smartphones. Our smartphones will become gadgets that connect everyone to everything.

The Internet of Things represents a danger and an opportunity for insurance companies. On the positive side, ingenious insurers will use the potential of the Internet of Things to strengthen their relationships with their clients, improve pricing, expedite claims processing, decrease fraud and boost risk management. They will attain a better understanding of customers’ needs and be in a position to develop new, improved insurance products to suit individual clients’ current situations, including offering location-based products and services. They will need to analyse the right data in real-time and focus on customer requirements with up to the minute relevant information.

The potential danger to insurers is that by meticulous pinpointing of insurance risks, the result could be a reduction in premiums charged to policyholders. This would lead to reduced income and as a result the eventual shrinking of the entire insurance industry.

An IBM research survey of 21, 000 consumers in 20 countries revealed the following:

  • Clients are becoming more difficult to please and harder to maintain. They still do not trust the insurance industry.
  • Although there is no substitute for insurance itself, clients can and will switch insurers if their preferred interaction points are not available.
  • There is the commonly held view that the web is all that matters, but consumers prefer personal interaction, as insurance is a product that relies on personal trust.

Insurers have to provide quality service and reach customers with the right interaction mix.

snow in boston

Ice dams

Thousands of homeowners seek repair damage after New England’s epic winter. In Boston alone successive storms dumped 110 inches of snow which is a record for an entire season.

Governors across the six state region have requested federal disaster relief to help state and local governments pay for snow removal and other costs. These requests do not cover home or private property damage.

With such high volumes of Boston area claims, insurance companies need more time to process and finalise payments. Another problem may be finding contractors to do the repairs, as they are also in high demand now.

Some property owners are expecting to have to pay for some of the repairs themselves. Since the first winter storm hit Boston at the end of January, the city has removed over 10, 000 truckloads of snow after a record six feet of snow fell in the last 30 days – breaking a previous record of 58.5 inches, set in 1978.

Liberty Mutual could not share the number of claims they received as a result of the winter storms but Glenn Greenberg, director of media relations at the insurer, said the company assigned dozens of claims adjusters in the field to assist customers.

Some adjusters came in from other parts of the country to help expedite the claims process, he said, adding that the insurer had several more adjusters ready to come to the region should claims volumes increase. The majority of these claims are water damage from ice dams and, to a lesser extent, collapses.

Boston Public Works Department crews have continued to work around the clock to remove the record amount of snow. According to the Mayor’s Offices the snowiest month long period on record has kept the PWD busy – 244, 064 miles of roadway have been plowed in 136, 652 hours and 70, 051 tons of salt have been used.

Reportedly 6, 000 of the 10, 000 truckloads of snow have been melted to increase capacity at the city’s snow farms. The Tide Street site has been melted to 50 percent capacity, while the Reservation Road site is at 10 percent capacity.

Total economic damages and losses as a result of U. S. winter storms during the month of January according to Impact Forecasting, Aon Benfield’s catastrophe modelling division, were estimated at $500 million.

Winter storms caused an estimated $2.3 billion in insured losses in the U. S. in 2014, up from R1.9 billion in 2013. From 1994 – 2013 winter storms resulted in about $27 million in U. S. insured catastrophe losses. Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates, an independent insurance agency in Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, said the agency has seen a noticeable uptick in claims.

Most of the claims are property damage related to ice dams. In addition his agency also received a couple of claims for roof collapses due to snow and ice. While the majority of those claims are roofs and ice dams, there have also been a number of fender bender claims. The roadways are a lot narrower because of the snows and the snow piles are a lot bigger so its more difficult to see around corners, so people are getting into little fender benders as well.
The widths of the roadway have narrowed considerably – there is nowhere to put the snow, so the snow is falling back on the roadways, which makes the two-lane road a one-lane road. The snowbanks are also hard. You could bounce off of it into oncoming traffic. Also people are not taking enough precaution when they are making right or left turns on the roadway with high snowbanks.

Quite a few claims are claims enquiries on ice dams, where water is leaking into people’s houses. The Arbella Insurance Group is seeing a high volume of three types of claims. The first type and the most significant are ice dams. There are also a number of frozen pipe and water damage claims and then finally, but fortunately, so far in very small numbers, are roof collapses.

Interior or exterior damage caused by an ice dam on your roof is typically covered by standard homeowner’s insurance policies. However, most policies will not cover ice dam or snow removal from your roof or anywhere else on your property.

The best way to deal with ice dams is to physically remove them from your roof. Hire a crew to do this job.

Try to remove snow from the roof, but only if it can be done safely. There is an amazing new type of roof rake called a Roof Razer.
Chisel grooves into the dam to allow the water behind it to drain off.
Fill an old pair of your wife’s panyhose with calcium chloride snow melt and lay it across the dam. It will help to melt the dam and also keep that area of the roof clear. DO NOT USE ROCK SALT. It will stain the roof and siding. It is best for small dams and prevention. It is also a good idea to scrape the snow off the roof first.
There are also ice melting pucks which you can purchase from Home Depot.

fracking

Fracking

The method of natural gas drilling known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” has caused controversy across the United States.  For some it promises increased energy independence.  For others, it means environmental catastrophe.

Fracking involves drilling down several thousand feet into a rock formation that holds natural gas.  That cracks the rock and creates pathways for gas to flow out of the well.  Two products result from this exercise, namely natural gas and wastewater.  There are a number of wastewater disposal methods.  The water can be put into a lined pond and left to evaporate or it can be treated or injected underground. 

Hydraulic fracturing is highly controversial.  Opponents argue that the environmental impacts of fracking includes the risks of contaminating ground water, depleting freshwater, degrading air quality, potentially triggering earthquakes, noise pollution, surface pollution, and the consequential hazards to public health and the environment. 

Fracking requires an enormous amount of water – as much as 5 million gallons per well.  It routinely employs numerous toxic chemicals, including methanol, benzene, napthalene and trimethylbenzene.  About 25 percent of fracking chemicals could cause cancer, according to scientists with the Endocrine Disruption Exchange.  Evidence is mounting throughout the country that these chemicals are making their way into acquifers and drinking water.

Water quality can also be threatened by methane contamination tied to drilling and the fracturing of rock formations.  This problem has been highlighted by footage of people in fracked areas accidentally setting fire to methane-laced water from kitchen faucets.

Fracking can also expose people to harm from lead, arsenic and radioactivity brought back to the surface of the land with fracking flowback fluid.  In fact, fracking waste water is so dangerous that it can’t be reused for other purposes.

Fracking can release dangerous petroleum hydrocarbons, including benzene, toluene and xylene.  It can also increase ground-level ozone, a key risk factor for asthma and other respiratory illness.  The pollutants in fracking water and flowback fluid can enter our air when waste water is dumped into pits and then evaporates.

Today’s fracking techniques are new and pose new dangers.  Directional drilling is a new technique that has greatly expanded access to rock formations.  Companies also employ high fluid volumes to fill horizontal “well bores” that sometimes extend for miles.  Oil and gas producers are using new chemical concoctions called “slick water” that allow injection fluid to flow rapidly enough to generate the high pressure needed to break rock apart.

Many scientists believe a recent upsurge in earthquake activity is related to fracking.  The United States Geological Survey has linked fracking wastewater injection to a 5.6 magnitude earthquake in Oklahoma, which is seismically stable. 

Earthquakes are not the only possible consequences of fracking.  350.org, an environmental advocacy group said that some people have had difficulty staying in their homes because of methane buildup related to fracking.  Not only is it difficult to get homeowner’s insurance for properties with or near a gas well, it is also difficult to get a mortgage. 

The Insurance Information Institute stated that all homeowner’s insurance policies exclude damage from environmental contamination.  Homeowners with an earthquake endorsement can get coverage for earthquake damage, even if the quake is linked to fracking.  For people who have leased their land which in effect makes it a business, insurance is more complicated.  Liabilities arising from a business are not covered by a homeowner’s policy. 

Between the years 2010 and 2013, central and eastern United States had an average of five times as many quakes per year as between 1970 and 2000. 

Standard homeowners, renters and business insurance policies do not cover damage from earthquakes.  Coverage is available either in the form of an endorsement or as a separate policy for homeowners, renters and small business owners. 

Earthquake insurance provides protection from the shaking and cracking that can destroy buildings and personal possessions.  Coverage for other kinds of damage that may result from earthquakes, such as fire and water damage due to burst gas and water pipes, is provided by standard home and business insurance policies in most states.  Cars and other vehicles are covered for earthquake damage by comprehensive insurance which also provides protection against flood and hurricane damage as well as theft. 

Earthquake insurance carries a deductible, generally in the form of a percentage rather than a dollar amount.  Deductibles can range anywhere from 2 percent to 20 percent of the replacement value of the structure.  Insurers in states like Washington, Nevada and Utah, with higher than average risk of earthquakes, often set minimum deductibles at around 10 percent.  In most cases, consumers can get higher deductibles to save money on earthquake premiums.
Premiums also differ widely by location, insurer and the type of structure that is covered. Generally older buildings cost more to insure than new ones. Wood frame structures generally benefit from lower rates than brick buildings because they tend to withstand quake stresses better.

Cyber Crime

Cyber Attack

A few days before Thanksgiving 2013, someone installed malware in Target’s security and payment network devised to take possession of all information related to every credit card used at the company’s 1,797 U. S. stores. The hackers gained control of a Target server. As Christmas gifts were scanned and packaged, the moment the cashier asked for a swipe of the customer’s credit card, the malware was activated and the credit card number was captured and stored for the hackers.

It is considered the largest credit card breach and cyber attack in U. S. history since the breach discovered in 2007 involving retailer T. J. Maxx and roughly 45 million card users.

Six months earlier, FireEye, the computer security firm, had begun installing a $1.6 million malware detection tool for Target. The CIA and the Pentagon are some of FireEye’s clients. Security specialists in Bangalore were supposed to monitor Target’s computers 24 hours a day. Anything suspicious noticed by the Bangalore security center was supposed to be reported to the security operations center in Minneapolis. Only after the hackers had planned an escape route for the safe-keeping of the data, did FireEye spot the breach and send an alert. It was too late. Details of the credit cards had been moved to various locations in the U. S. to cover tracks and then finally to Russia. Target stood by as 40 million credit card numbers and 70 million addresses, phone numbers and email addresses poured out of Target’s mainframe.

According to media reports, credit and debit card accounts stolen are being sold on underground black markets for anywhere from $20 to more than $100 per card, reports KrebsOnSecurity, a security news website.

Target announced in January 2015 that it was closing all 133 of its stores in Canada. This resulted in the retrenchment of more than 17, 000 workers. Earlier in March this year another 1,700 workers were laid off at its headquarters and 1,400 open positions were slashed.

Documents show that hacking victims could get as much as $10,000 each. The proposed settlement requires that the Target Corporation put into force certain security policies within 10 days of the settlement becoming effective. These include:

  • The appointment of a chief information security officer.
  • Have in its possession a written information security program, which specifies potential security risks. Furthermore, the company must develop metrics to measure the security of its systems.
  • The company must educate workers about the importance of safeguarding personal identifying information.

In order for hacking victims to be paid they have to have experienced at least one of the following:

  • Unauthorised, unreimbursed charges on their credit or debit card.
  • Spent their own time attending to charges.
  • Paid fees to hire somebody to correct a report.
  • Paid higher interest rates or fees on accounts.
  • Spent funds buying credit reports.
  • Paid to replace identification, Social Security number or phone number.

More than 90 lawsuits have been filed against Target by customers and banks for negligence and compensatory damage. With the approval of a federal court, Target will deposit a settlement amount into an interest bearing escrow account. With the approval of a federal court, according to the 97 page settlement.

A recent survey by the Ponemon Institute revealed the average cost of cybercrime for U. S. retail stores more than doubled from 2013 to an annual average of $8.6 million per company in 2014. The annual average cost per company of successful cyber attacks increased by $20.8 million in financial services, $14.5 million in the technology sector, and $12.7 million in communications industries.

This survey lists known cyber attacks on private U. S. companies since the beginning of 2014. By its very nature, a list of this sort is incomplete. The scope of many attacks is not fully known. For example, in July, the U. S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued an advisory that more than 1,000 U. S. businesses have been affected by the Backoff malware, which targets point-of-sale (PoS) systems used by most retail industries. (Backoff scrapes memory from running processes on targeted devices, and has therefore been planted on retailers’ PoS systems by criminals desiring to pilfer consumer credit data.

The list includes only cyber attacks that have been made known to the public. Most companies encounter multiple cyber attacks every day, many unknown to the public and many unknown to the companies themselves.

quarterback

Sports Disability Insurance

The 2015 NFL draft will be the 80th annual meeting of National Football League franchises to select newly eligible football players. It runs from 30th April to 2nd May in Chicago. Attention has been focussed on sports disability insurance due to a lawsuit against Lloyds of London by former University of Southern California Trojans receiver Marquise Lee.

Much of the interest is from sports agents who represent high-profile college players. Athletes who stay in school another year and wait for another draft want to protect their worth. Interest from potential clients reaches a climax at the time just before the draft.

Michael Owen, VP of Lockton’s Companies LLP, said there are plenty of insurance agents in the high-profile sports disability insurance market and the amount of people writing sports insurance has increased. This has driven down rates and commissions, while policies are growing in dollar amounts to cover increasingly high-earning athletes. NFL players on average earn $1.9 million per year, according to a report by Forbes.

Lloyds of London is being sued by Lee because it denied a $4.5 million insurance claim. Lloyds states that Lee misled them about his injury history. The policy was taken out in 2013 when Lee decided to remain playing college football for another year and opted out of the draft. The premium for this policy was
$94, 600. A business loan was obtained for that purpose. The policy guaranteed Lee the difference between his rookie NFL contract and a $9.6 million baseline. The Jacksonville Jaguars signed up Lee for fours at $5.1 million, making the difference of $4.5 million filed for in his claim.

Lee was diagnosed with a medial collateral ligament sprain, bone contusion, posterior sprain and popliteal cyst in his left knee. As a result of the injuries, Lee did not perform well and missed many games during the remainder of the 2013 football season. Before his injury Lee had been viewed as a top first-round pick for the 2014 draft. He was only selected in the second round (39th) by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2014 draft. According to the lawsuit, this amounted to a multimillion dollar loss in the value of Lee’s rookie NFL contract.

In denying the claim, Lloyds argued that Lee did not disclose certain health information when applying for the sports disability insurance policy. An executive director of Aon’s entertainment group stated that from the start, disability policies require a lot of groundwork. The importance of policy wording is of paramount importance so that the understanding and expectations of the insured is aligned with the understanding and expectations of the carrier. Not only is good communication amongst all parties key to a satisfactory sports disability insurance policy, but extremely good guesswork is required as to how much the player may be worth in the future.

Locktons reported that they have paid out sizeable sums, such as an $8 million claim in the NFL and a £6 million claim in the Premier Soccer League. Citing client confidentiality, Owen would not give names or details of payouts. Former Georgia Bulldog Todd Gurley and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, an Oregon Duck cornerback, have reportedly been preparing to file claims after suffering season-ending injuries last year.

pothole and car

The Cost of Potholes

According to a 2014 survey commissioned by Trusted Choice and the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, poor road conditions have cost consumers and the insurance industry approximately $27 billion over a 5 year period. Furthermore, the survey revealed that between 2009 and 2014, half the car owners suffered damage to their vehicles as a result of potholes.

The arrival of Spring 2015 is just around the corner. Most of the U. S east of the Rocky Mountains will welcome warmer temperatures and grass instead of snow. There will also be streets filled with potholes. Whenever there has been precipitation, freezing temperatures and vehicular traffic, there is the likelihood of potholes. Severe potholes lead to accidents. This cost of potholes has an impact on insurance rates, because premiums are determined by past claims, accidents and driving violations.

The pothole survey revealed that 31 per cent of car owners who reported pothole damage and who had to repair their autos as a result, filed a claim with their insurance company. Approximately 65 per cent of respondents who needed repairs said they (or a third party) paid out of pocket for the vehicle to be repaired.
Every time water gets into a crack and then freezes, the crack expands by about 10 per cent. The repeated freeze-thaw nature of winter and spring guarantees that potholes will form. Potholes cannot be repaired during winter because asphalt plants close for the winter in northern latitudes because hot asphalt cools too quickly to be applied.

In most places, departments of transportation make do with a temporary cold patch that only offers a solution for a few weeks. In Boston, where record snowfall and unpleasant weather has crippled the city since mid-January, street crews have set up orange cones in the worst of the potholes, as they lack the resources to repair them immediately. In the spring and summer, pothole repair crews are deployed.

There are several methods of pothole repair that are being tested.

  • A silly putty-like material contained in a Kevlar bag is placed in the pothole to ensure temporary safety. The bag is removed when a permanent repair can be done.
  • Indiana’s Street Department is attending to potholes in a two-step process. One crew clears the hole with a propane torch to melt ice in the hole and a high-power leaf blower to clear out water and loose debris. The second crew follows with cold mix asphalt and roller.
  • Michigan contracts with a pothole specialist company for a couple of weeks in late winter to repair streets with a four-part plan. The area is first blown dry. Next, a tacking material is applied. This is followed by the asphalt and loose-stone layer on top. During the fourth step, a steam-roller is used to flatten the fill. This costs extra and is sometimes not used, allowing traffic itself to compress the material.
  • Using infrared technology, a heating unit is lowered onto the street from a truck. The hole is heated to ensure that the surrounding pavement is more likely to bond with the replacement asphalt.

Most of these innovations are in years two, three or more of testing, however, the majority of states and municipalities continue two-season process of temporary fixes in winter and more permanent pothole repairs in the warmer, drier months.

For example, the cost of potholes in Phoenix is going to be $7.1 billion. This will keep the Phoenix street network from falling into disrepair. Ray Dovalina, Phoenix Street transportation director said that he has less than $2 billion in revenue and is therefore trying to find more than $5.1 billion to reduce the cost of potholes.. Phoenix maintains 750 miles of arterial roads or “mile streets” and 3,700 miles of local streets. Without ongoing maintenance, that’s a lot of potential potholes to fill. Those numbers don’t separate out the bridges, wash crossings and sidewalks that need to be maintained.

Dovalina’s goal is to reduce the street life cycle to 30 years. This means that the city wants to be able to rebuild roads every three decades. With current funds, the life cycle is 60 years, which means that the city is forced to spend millions in additional maintenance money to keep streets from falling apart. The new five year transportation budget includes 1,100 new bike lanes and 170 miles of sidewalks, plus 200 new LED traffic lights.

google auto insurance

Google Compare Auto Insurance

Google has launched Google Compare Auto Insurance.  This is an auto insurance website for comparing and purchasing car insurance in the United States. For the last two years, Google made this available to car insurance purchasers in the United Kingdom. Google gets a percentage on each policy sold via its website. At the moment this service is available only in California, however, Google is cleared to sell in 26 states in the near future.

Users of Google Compare Auto Insurance are first asked for their zip code after which the user’s address and type of vehicle is requested. Once the desired coverage wanted is selected, the service provides the user with quotes from 14 insurers. Any searches done for “car insurance” will direct people there as an option.

It is rumoured that Google is preparing itself to be the underwriter for policies for its driverless cars. Metlife, Mercury and 21st Century Insurance have been brought onboard with Google. At the moment big insurers such as Progressive, Geico, State Farm and Allstate have not yet signed on with Google Compare Auto Services.

Progressive and Allstate also provide auto insurance price comparisons.

A year ago Wal-Mart began offering a similar service. Walmart teamed up with Autoinsurance.com to begin a comparison service that aims to help drivers buy and save on their auto insurance. U. S. insurance brokers are concerned because the sites allow users to buy directly from insurers thus eliminating any fees going to agents.

emergency vehicle accident

Other drivers

You may be driving below the speed limit and obeying the traffic signals, when another driver plows into your car. In each instance, it does not necessarily mean that the other driver’s insurance company should pay your medical and car repair bills. The small details of the accident matter. Rules vary from one state to another, however, for the other driver to be liable and his liability insurance to come into force, there must be proof of negligence.

Attorney Benjamin Zimmerman, a partner with Sugarman & Sugarman, a firm of attorneys in Boston, claims that if negligence cannot be proved, then you cannot win the case and if you cannot win the case, insurance companies know that and therefore will not pay. An important aspect to a successful claim is to prove the other driver’s fault as quickly and as thoroughly as possible so that you are able to claim from the other driver’s insurance company.

In states with no-fault auto insurance systems, your own insurance generally pays for your medical bills, regardless of who was at fault. You are restricted in when you can sue another driver’s insurance company for injuries. Insurance laws vary widely state by state.
In some states, such as New Jersey it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle that does not have liability insurance coverage. In some jurisdictions. liability coverage is available either as a combined single limit policy, or as a split limit policy. Virginia does not require the vehicle owner to carry car insurance but an uninsured motor vehicle fee may be paid to the state.

There are instances when the other driver’s insurance company may refuse to pay out, even if you think it should pay out.

A sudden incapacitating medical event is a defense and is more common than people might think. He may have a heart attack or stroke. If he did not have enough warning of this, the person may not be liable if he loses control of the vehicle. On the other hand, if this person was aware of his medical condition, he should not have been driving a car is is therefore liable.

Another example is that of a pregnant woman who hit a car. The attorney representing his client managed to establish that the pregnant woman had enough time to pull to the side of the road safely, before feeling flushed and fainted. Her insurance company then had to pay his client’s claim.

A collision from a fire truck racing to an emergency: The standard for proving that an emergency vehicle driver was liable is much higher than the standard for other drivers. Local and state jurisdictions have varying rules and timelines for filing claims against them. Many lawyers do not want to take on these types of cases as there is a tremendous amount of red tape involved and most emergency vehicles enjoy immunity from liability for negligence.

If a driver hits you because of an accident with a hit and run driver, depending on the state, you may be able to claim under your own uninsured motorist coverage. Should you be hit by a driver who fails to stop, this is regarded as a criminal offense in all states in the USA. The police are supposed to provide immediate assistance.

In most instances, a vehicle insurance policy covers you and other licensed drivers in the household who are listed on the policy and any person that you give occasional permission to drive the vehicle. However, when a thief takes a car, there is no permission or consent. Therefore, the car owner’s insurance will not pay. If the thief was caught and he had a policy, his insurer would also not pay because insurance does not apply to criminal acts. You could sue the thief, but the chances of recovering any money damages are minimal. In some states, the car owner may be found partially liable if he did something negligent, which led to the theft, for example, he left the keys in the car whilst the engine was on.

There are instances when an accident occurs which is nobody’s fault. A deer may jump out in front of a vehicle causing it to hit someone else. A driver could be partially liable if he was exceeding the speed limit.

Certain states have comparative negligence laws when liability is calculated on a percentage basis. One party may be 30 per cent liable and the other party 70 per cent liable. Comparative negligence laws dictate how the responsibility for an accident will be shared between the parties directly involved in an accident, where bodily injury or property damage was suffered.

The insurance company will make the injured party an offer based on what it believes to be the amount of negligence of its insured. The insurance company may interview the involved parties, including witnesses, and may also review the accident report in order to determine the amount of the offer. An insurance company may believe that its insured was not more than 50% or more at fault for an accident and may not offer to pay any damages for the loss. The injured party may negotiate with the insurance company until a settlement is reached or until the two parties reach an impasse.

If a settlement cannot be reached, the courts make the final determination of comparative negligence.

hacking

Cyber Insurance

Protection against hacking into company accounts will find enterprises needing as much as $1 billion cyber insurance to protect themselves against cyber attacks. There are firms struggling to secure even a tenth of that amount. If a data breach occurs within a network, the company which suffered the breach could face hundreds of millions of dollars in extra costs as many companies are having difficulty in obtaining more than about $300 million in cyber insurance coverage . The maximum amount of cyber insurance coverage currently available is $500 million.

Researchers at Kaspersky Labs, a Russian cyber security group, uncovered sophisticated spying software in the hard drives of personal computers used in 30 countries, including Iran, Pakistan, Russia and China.

The latest in a long line of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency revelations may be among the most shocking. The NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ, allegedly compromised the networks of Gemalto and pilfered the encryption keys protecting untold millions, potentially billions of SIM cards. A compromise of SIM cards on this scale would call into question the integrity of the entire global cellular communication system.

Gemalto is a global manufacturer of mobile device SIM cards. According to the Economist, they manufacture more SIM cards than any other organisation in the world. (SIM is an acronym for subscriber identification module. A SIM card is a little integrated circuit that plugs into your mobile device. It contains the unique international subscriber identity (IMSI) along with an encrypted authentication key. Together, this key and that number essentially validate that your phone is, in fact, your phone).

Gemalto produces approximately 2 billion SIM cards every year. To put that in context, there are 7, 125 billion humans in the world; an estimated 7, 19 billion mobile devices. Gemalto’s clients include mobile service providers Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and some 450 other organisations. The company does business in 85 countries and operates 40 manufacturing facilities.

Target, the U. S. Retailer, said that the price tag for the data breach that affected up to 110 million of its customers had reached $248 million. A catastrophic hit such as this on a large bank or power utility has prompted the private sector to work in collaboration with the government sector to find ways to boost cyber insurance coverage. Stephen Catlin, the head of Lloyds of London insurer warned that cyber attacks constituted the biggest most systemic risk he had ever seen and recommended that it should be covered by governments. He stated that insurer’s balance sheets were not large enough.

Cyber risk management is poor at certain companies. The unpredictability of future attacks is accompanied by the lack of data with which to price risks, is hampering the capacity in the cyber insurance sector. Insurance companies are finding the costs too high and instead of growing, coverage has become more limited. Tougher cyber security standards are being required by Insurers, in the hope of reducing the costs of breaches. Insurers have requested retailers to encrypt data and use other ways of storing information in order to get insurance.

The recent breach at Anthem exposed 80 million Social Security numbers. Anthem is the second largest health insurer in the United States and according to well-known sources had $150 million in cyber insurance. Aside from civil litigation and other expenses, $40 million would have to be spent on informing clients according to various state laws and remediation compensation. 13.5 million Californians were affected by the company’s data breach. Federal Health officials and state insurance commissions are investigating whether Anthem took sufficient security measures to safeguard its database.

Home Depot recorded $43 million pre-tax expenses related to a recent data breach. This amount was partially offset by a $15 million receivable for costs the company believes are reimbursable and probable for recovery under its cyber insurance coverage, for pre-tax net expenses of $28 million. Those expenses included costs to investigate the data breach, provide identity protection services including credit monitoring to impacted customers, increase call center staffing, legal and other professional services.

There are a number of ways to protect your valuable information from hackers:

  • Ensure that your password is complex and do not use the same password or username across various websites. Experienced criminals will use your base password and their sophisticated software to crack your other passwords. Hackers are aware of the fact that most people are lazy so as soon as they get access to your credentials from one site, they will try out your credentials at many other sites. A password manager provides you with strong, unique passwords for all of your accounts and keeps them in a secure encrypted vault on your device.
  • Do not recycle user IDs and passwords. Hackers sometimes try stolen IDs and passwords on different sites to gain control of other accounts.
  • Never confirm or provide personal information in response to an email or text and do not click on links in unexpected messages.
  • If you see charges on your credit card or bank statements that you do not recognise, contact the fraud department at your bank or credit card provider immediately to investigate.
  • Check your credit reports – for free – every few months. It is a good way to find out if someone has opened credit in your name. To get your report, visit AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.
  • Use two factor authentication. This provides an extra layer of protection beyond your password. First you enter your username and password as usual, then a code is sent to your mobile app. Only after you enter that code will you be allowed to access your account. Two factor authentication combines something you know (your password) with something you have (your phone), making access by unauthorised users much more difficult.
Nissan LEAF

Electric Vehicles

Between the 12th and 20th September 2015, the fifth annual National Drive Electric Week will be organised by Plug In America, The Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association. The week will be drawing global attention to the benefits of plug-in electric vehicles from an environmental, economic as well as an insurance perspective.

There are many working parts in an internal combustion engine, which the owners of electric vehicles do not have to worry about. A study by Coverhound insurance released the results of a study which show that owning an electric vehicle is assisted by the lower cost of vehicle insurance.

The reason is that most insurance companies regard electric vehicle drivers as more responsible and therefore less likely to be involved in a car accident or obtain a ticket for a traffic violation. A Chevy Volt costs an average of $1,452 per year to insure. Its non-electric counterpart, namely the Cadillac CTS is approximately $2,024 per annum. The most popular electric vehicle in 2013 was the Nissan Leaf and its annual insurance premium average $1,513 in comparison to $1,801 for a Nissan Altima.

It must be emphasised, however, that not every electric vehicle is cheaper to insure. Depending on which policy you have, switching from a Ford 150 to a Chevy Volt can increase your insurance rate by as much as $200.

Many well known insurers have a problem reacting to new technology, such as electric vehicles, however there are others who are highly flexible.

Zurich, a well-known insurance company, put into motion a worldwide drive which put emphasis on the advancement of products and services which would help consumers deal with climate-related risks. In the aspect of transportation, part of the solution is the conversion to electric vehicles with the ultimate goal of low carbon emissions. Zurich’s electric car insurance cover includes:

  • 20% discount off on electric car’s insurance premium;
  • 24 hour roadside assistance;
  • In the event of your car running out of charge, you will get free towing to the nearest public charge point or to your home charge point, whichever is the nearest;
  • Assistance will be given should your car have a mechanical failure. You will be towed to the nearest specialist electric car repairer at no charge;
  • Should your electric car -charge access card be stolen, it will be replaced free of charge.

Important questions regarding electric vehicle insurance:

Is the battery fully owned or leased?

Inform your insurance company and clarify how it affects your premium. For instance, Renault lease batteries to the owners of their electric vehicles and the question raised by Direct Line was that would this not make insuring your EV more problematic.

Enquire about cable liability.

Does your insurance policy cover the possibility of somebody claiming liability should they trip over the cable and hurt themselves? The cables are usually short and using an extension is not recommended for safety reasons.
Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., Japan’s second-largest automotive company is headquartered in Yokohama, Japan. It is part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Nissan delivers a range of more than 60 models under Nissan, Infiniti and Datsun brands. In 2010, Nissan introduced the Nissan LEAF and continues to lead in zero-emission mobility. The Leaf, the first mass-market, pure electric vehicle launched globally, is now the best selling electric vehicle in history with more than a 50 per cent share of the zero-emission vehicle segment.

The Renault-Nissan alliance have sold 200,000 electric vehicles worldwide to date and say that they control 58 per cent of the segment. The CEO of the alliance, Carlos Ghosn claims that there are, in his opinion, four reasons why car buyers are making the switch to electric vehicles.

It is convenient as electric car charging stations can be installed anywhere that already has electricity. Owners can make a “recharge” without making a trip. These recharge points include the drivers’ homes and workplaces.
The average cost of driving a Nissan Leaf is 3.5 cents per mile, compared to 11.9 cents per mile for a compact gasoline car or 8.6 cents for a hybrid. Insurance companies furthermore, as mentioned before, view EV drivers as low risk.
Mr. Ghosn is to have said that the “cul-de-sac” effect is helping the market share grow because a person who takes home an EV attracts the attention of curious neighbours and perhaps gets them interested in making a similar purchase.
Ghosn claims that the Nissan and Renault EVs have the highest customer satisfaction rates of any vehicle that either company has ever produced to date.
Benefits are better realised with battery electric cars as opposed to the use of fuel cells as promoted by Japanese car makers such as Honda and Toyota.

A hydrogen fuelling station costs on average $2.5 million to build compared to an electric car – charging station with installation costs of $2,000.

detroit auto accident

Auto Insurance in Detroit

According to the US Census, Detroit, Michigan has a high rate of poverty with a population that is 83 per cent black and 39 per cent impoverished.

For auto insurance in Detroit one is subject to the most expensive zip code in the United States. This is followed by Philadelphia and Brooklyn. The Detroit zip code 48227 is a 130 percent increase over the Michigan average of $2,226.

A driver’s location is typically used to start the process of calculating when applying for auto insurance in Detroit. This is further followed by the number and severity of the applicant’s car insurance claims in that vicinity. The driver’s driving record, age and the type of vehicle to be insured are further aspects taken into account. Insurance fraud which is rampant in Detroit is an additional factor contributing to high auto insurance in Detroit.

According to CarInsurance.com approximately 21 per cent of Michigan motorists are uninsured. Detroit’s rate of vehicle theft in 2014 was 1,534 per 100,000 residents, which is seven times the national average. This information was obtained from the FBI and Detroit Police department. Michigan is among 12 states with compulsory no-fault auto insurance to bypass lawsuits over accidents. It is the only state that requires unlimited medical coverage, which insurance companies have tried to cap for many years. In contrast, New York necessitates $50,000 medical coverage. Robert Hunter, a director of insurance at the Washington-based Consumer Federation of America made a statement that if he was going to be hit by a car and seriously injured, he would prefer it if it happened in Michigan. However, those people without insurance are barred by Michigan law from suing.

Michigan’s no-fault insurance law became effective in 1973. It requires motorists to carry no-fault auto insurance which provides unlimited lifetime medical benefits for motorists suffering auto injuries and up to
$5,392 per month in wage loss benefits for up to three years, regardless of who’s at fault in an accident. This means your premium rates can go up after an accident, even if you were not at fault.

Critics of no-fault insurance argue it has led to higher insurance premiums because of generous accident benefits and say it encourages risky and fraudulent behaviour. On top of no-fault insurance, drivers in Michigan are required by law to have personal injury protection, property protection and residual liability coverage, all of which add to the costs of auto insurance.

Personal Injury Protection:

  • Benefits are paid to the accident victim by his/her own insurance company. These include the following: –
  • All reasonable and necessary medical expenses
  • Work loss benefits, up to a maximum of $5,189 per month for three years. This is subject to annual cost-of-living adjustment. Higher benefit limits may be purchased.
  • Up to $20 per day, for a maximum of three years for “replacement services”. This pays for services which the injured person can no longer perform.
  • Survivors’ loss benefits and replacement services benefits are paid to the insured’s dependents in case of death.
  • Funeral and burial expense benefits of a minimum of $1,750.

Personal Injury Protection coverage applies to accidents occurring throughout the United States and Canada. It covers you and your family while riding in any car and as pedestrians. Premium costs for this coverage can be reduced by choosing a deductible for medical benefits and a waiting period or deductible for work loss benefits.

Property Protection:

This provides coverage for damage caused by your car to property of others (except moving vehicles), regardless of fault.

  • Coverage is provided up to a $1,000,000 maximum.
  • Vehicles are excluded from coverage, unless properly parked.
  • Property protection does not apply to accidents occurring outside the state of Michigan.

Residual Liability:

This provides protection if you are sued or are legally responsible:

  • In accidents involving death, serious impairment of body function, or permanent, serious disfigurement.
  • When actual economic losses sustained in an accident exceed the benefits available in Personal Injury Protection coverage.
  • In accidents occurring outside of Michigan, for property damage and bodily injury.

The required limits of this coverage are $20,000 for one person’s injury. $40,000 for all persons injured in one accident and $10,000 for property damage. Higher limits may be purchased.

Detroit residents who are hurt in vehicle collisions and have no insurance, risk losing everything. They are forced to turn to Medicaid. The high cost of insurance also shrinks Detroit’s voter rolls because residents register their vehicles at suburban addresses to get lower rates and thus cannot register to vote in the city.

Other factors driving up Detroit’s auto insurance premiums:

Detroit has more accidents on its highways and roads than other Michigan towns and rural areas. Reported accidents account for 7% recorded in Michigan.

Fraud involving therapy and chiropractic schemes is excessive. Dubious medical claims in Detroit jumped 124% between 2009 and 2014. Claims in Detroit accounted for one third of all claims in Michigan in 2014.

The Detroit City Council unanimously approved a contract for an actuarial firm to begin looking into whether the city would be able to feasibly sponsor its own city-run auto insurance company to help drive prices down for residents. Mayor Mike Duggan recently said that since he moved into the city with his family, his auto insurance premiums had gone up more than $3,000. It has been said that the high cost of auto insurance premiums is one of the key reasons residents have been leaving the city for years.

Whether is is truly possible is an unknown at the present time, particularly after the city just emerged from the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy. It is certainly worth exploring. If the city can self-insure its residents, saving lots of money would certainly be a welcome change.

expat

Expatriate Insurance

Expatriate insurance policies are created to insure against financial and other losses which may be incurred by expatriates while living and working in a country other than one’s own.

Expatriate insurance should be organised before going to a new country. This insurance usually covers the duration of one’s stay and can be purchased on a 6 month to annual basis.

One of the most important necessities for expatriates is health insurance. According to Relocate Magazine, an international health insurance provider namely Now Health International, carried out a survey which included questions about a range of expat experiences, including attitudes to health cover. A total of 209 responses were gathered and analysed. Most expats in the survey were living and working in the UAE, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand. More than a third had been living away from their homeland for ten years or more.

25 per cent of respondents who had no medical insurance believed that such expatriate insurance was unnecessary because they were currently healthy. They did not believe that they would fall ill. In recent years the costs for medical care in popular expat locations has undergone double-digit inflation, so expats risk facing large bills if their health fails them. Of the same group of respondents, 12 percent were under the impression that their new country’s state healthcare system would take care of them. Expatriates should research the new country’s healthcare system, before arriving there, as many countries are now introducing regulations limiting medical cover for expats to accident and emergency.

Access to medical resources and the level of industrialisation are two key reasons why some nations have better expatriate insurance options than others. Taiwan is one of the highest rated countries for both health care affordability and quality. In its most recent Expat Explorer survey, HSBC found that nearly 70 per cent of assignees in Taiwan spent less on healthcare while on assignment than in their home country. While assignee satisfaction with Taiwanese healthcare affordability and quality is 3 times the global average, inexpensive health care options can also be found in the UK, Thailand, Japan and Saudi Arabia. The U. S. , Ireland, Brazil and New Zealand are the opposite.
Policies are underwritten in one of two ways: moratorium and full medical underwriting.

With moratorium underwriting, health insurance applicants are not required to make any medical declarations. Any new or unexpected medical conditions that occur after the policy has started will be covered according to the policy conditions.

If you sign up for a policy with moratorium underwriting your pre-existing conditions may be covered if you have:

NOT experienced any symptoms related to your pre-existing condition.

NOT obtained advice or tests from a health practitioner regarding your condition.

NOT required treatment or medication for the condition.

NOT received treatment or medication for the condition in the 2-5 years prior to the policy start date.

If, for two years after the start date of the policy you continue to fulfil all the criteria above, then your condition will be covered again.
If you have had symptoms, advice or treatment for a condition in the (typically) five years before the start of the policy then there is likely to be a complete ban on that condition. This is all subject to the terms and conditions of your policy.

Full medical underwriting is the more usual way of applying for health insurance. It involves a full medical history disclosure. Any cover offered is based on your medical history and will likely exclude pre-existing conditions.

Why choose moratorium underwriting?

If you have no health issues you can take out cover quickly and even fill in all the forms online. For those with health problems in their past, moratorium underwriting may be more beneficial. There are many conditions that ordinarily would not be covered with a full medical disclosure. Providing you stay symptom, advice and treatment free for the specified time, then cataracts, mole and cyst removal and joint replacements are among those things that can be covered.

Moratorium underwriting has been criticised as being unclear for policyholders. People may be unsure what is covered until they make a claim. Delays can also occur when a claim is made as insurers check with doctors about whether a treatment is covered.

Policyholders have a two year window in which they need to remain advice, treatment and symptom free in order to be covered by their policy. If they break these rules they have to start the two year waiting period again. This presents a risk that policyholders could be tempted to delay treatment or seek advice for existing conditions.

More companies are offering the choice of moratorium underwriting though may still only have the full medical option. The following are some companies that offer moratorium policies.

Aviva – MyShield policy
WPA
Simply Private Health Insurance

plastic waste

Plastic Waste

Concern is growing over far-flung plastic waste that is destroying marine life, according to the United Nations Environment Assembly. Tourism, fisheries, business and marine life are threatened by plastic contamination.
“The environmental impact of the way we use plastic cannot be ignored” said Achim Steiner, UNEP director.

Over 30% of the natural capital costs are as a result of greenhouse gas emission from raw material extraction and processing and marine pollution is the largest downstream cost, conservatively quantified at $13 billion annually. Inestimable amounts of plastic waste enter the ocean from poorly managed landfills, littering, tourist activities and fisheries sinking to the ocean floor, whilst some float over great distances carried by ocean currents resulting in polluted shorelines.

Reducing, recycling and redesigning products that use plastics can bring multiple green economy benefits from reducing economic damage to marine ecosystems and the tourism and fisheries industries to bringing savings and opportunities for innovation to companies while reducing reputational risks.

There have been many reliable reports of environmental damage due to plastic waste that include mortality or illness when ingested by sea creatures such as turtles, entanglement of animals such as whales and dolphins and damage to critical habitats such as coral reefs.

Further concern has grown over microplastics (particles up to 5mm in diameter) that are being ingested by marine organisms – including seabirds, fish, mussels, worms and zooplankton. A major concern is the increasing use of microplastics in consumer products such as microbeads in toothpastes, gels and facial cleansers.

Beat the Micro bead App

More and more cosmetics contain micro beads which are a hazard to our environment. The North Sea Foundation and the Plastic Soup Foundation have developed an App which is used to check if a product contains micro beads. You scan the barcode of the product with your smartphone camera. New countries are continuously added and the new version of this App recognizes many more products. To download go to: http://get. www. beatthemicrobead.org

FACTS ABOUT PLASTIC POLLUTION

In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments such as grocery bags, straws and soda bottles are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day.

Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.

50 percent of the plastic we use, we use only once and then dispose of it.

Enough plastic is thrown away each year, to circle the earth four times.

We currently recover only five percent of the plastics we produce.

The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic each year.

Plastic accounts for around 10 percent of the total waste we generate.

The production of plastic uses around eight percent of the world’s oil production.

Americans dispose of 35 billion plastic water bottles every year.

Plastic in the ocean breaks down into such small segments that pieces of plastic from a 1 liter bottle could end up on every mile of beach throughout the world.

Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.
46 percent of plastics float and it can drift for years before eventually concentrating the the ocean gyres.

It takes 500-1000 years for plastic to degrade.

Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences in the oceans making up about 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California and is the largest ocean garbage site in the world. It is twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sealife six to one.

One million sea birds and 100, 000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.

Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body – 93 percent of Americans age six and older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical).

A report, entitled Valuing Plastic: the business case for measuring, managing and disclosing plastic use in the consumer goods industry was published on 23rd June 2014.

The research is the first-ever assessment of the environmental costs of plastic in business. It calculates the amount of plastic used by stock exchange listed companies in sixteen consumer goods sections and assesses levels of corporate disclosure on plastic. Its aim is to help companies understand the risks and opportunities of plastic and build a business case for improving its management.

The Report recommends that progressive companies can improve management of plastic and win customer loyalty by developing closed loop models that recover resources and materials. Unilever has made $250, 000 of savings by using 15% less plastic packaging in its Dove Products. Dell has launched the first ever PC made using third party certified closed loop plastic.