I remember when I called my first insurance agent. I was asked a million questions, I had no idea why the information was important, didn’t know all the answers, didn’t understand the terms, and at the end of the day, had NO idea what I had just purchased coverage for. (For the record, I do know now that I should have been asking questions instead of all the mmm hmmms, but it is scary to be on your own for the first time.)
I didn’t just include this story to share my post-college fears, or to tell some uplifting story about how with hard work and dedication that girl became an insurance coverage lawyer (yawn). Really, it was just a vehicle to share why I find risk conversation— a new risk management-oriented online community by Chubb Insurance–to be a really neat, and helpful tool. Clicking around this website you can take quizzes to see where there is risk in your private and business life, read blogs, polls and encounter other user friendly information all available at the click of your mouse. By having some idea of what coverage you need, and what questions you need to ask, you can easily be more productive (and less confused) when you are ready for that first conversation with your agent.
Full Press Release
In perusing this article and this article in the Insurance Journal I was struck by the differences between the everyday understanding of an insurance contract and the understanding I have been gaining through working with them in the legal system. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who to his credit wants to save money for his constituents, has in my opinion put State Farm and other insurance companies into a really unfortunate position. The article says:
Blumenthal said State Farm is the largest insurer not to waive the deductible and continues to apply the charge to claims it received because the storm was downgraded less than 24 hours before causing damage in Connecticut.
“I understand that the insurance policies State Farm wrote for Connecticut residents permit the company to charge a full hurricane deductible, as Irene was downgraded to tropical storm status before the 24 hours that your policies require,” Blumenthal said in his letter to State Farm CEO.
“However, I urge you to reconsider this narrow interpretation of your policy documents. The total amount that State Farm would have to waive in deductibles would be negligible, and would represent a significant benefit to your policyholders.”
Reading his comments, I am not sure the senator does in fact understand the insurance policy, or policies in general. Insurance policies do not "permit companies to charge . . . ." They either cover some loss/damage/injury, or they do not — an outcome that is not based on the company’s "permission." In fact, the insurance company that would decide to apply only certain provisions of their policy would be acting incorrectly. The company must strictly follow their contract that was entered into in good faith. The "narrow interpretation" Blumenthal is criticizing is merely proper application of the policy. Says who? Well, says the courts.
Because of his challenges, insurance companies that don’t capitulate are faced with bad publicity by the public who, understandably, are not aware of the applicable legal background. Because the insurance company IS aware of the legal implications of their choices, and because they are aware of other dangers (some of which are noted by the comments to the articles) that could come about if they begin picking and choosing when to apply policy language, they have no choice but to turn the other cheek.
In searching for a topic that could wake me up and get my brain flowing this Monday morning I got a bit sidetracked looking at this article on Above the Law. (As a side note, if you never surf that site, Above the Law is always good for some laughs . . . and some tears).
Anyway, looking at the claims of Thomas Jefferson somehow lead to an actual insurance topic. Sallie Mae is now entering the world of tuition insurance. Tuition insurance provides coverage for students’ tuition when they are forced to leave school mid-term for a physical or mental illness. Here is NY Times coverage on the plan. This article sparked some interesting comments, which you can read here due to the plan’s differing payouts for physical/mental health claims (100% payout for physical, 75% for mental health).
In April, when I first saw an article about Worker’s Comp, a TV show pilot following the inner-workings of an insurance company, I couldn’t believe there was enough humor to base an entire comedy series on the topic. Today, I stand corrected. After seeing this blog post on InsuranceQuotes, and being incredibly amused by the thought of someone coughing their way to $1 million, I did a little digging. Turns out people have attempted some crazy (read hilarious) things to try to squeeze some money out of their insurance carriers. For instance, Fox Business reported on a person attempting to put a mouse in their soup (but forgetting that there would be no soup in the poor critter’s lungs or alternatively, that they needed to cook the mouse in soup), and a man who attempted to collect on his home and car insurance after throwing flaming cooking pans into his car and on his couch. Then there is this article, from InsureMe, which, believe it or not, reports on a man who successfully claimed against a homeowner’s insurance policy for undue mental anguish after breaking into the home, locking himself in the garage, and having to live off of dog food and soda until the homeowner returned.
While there seems to be plenty of humor for a television show, there is also an important message in these articles. The insurance company will investigate claims, they have the resources to give mouse autopsies, and insurance fraud is not a smart get rich quick scheme.
The Cutting Edge: Whoever said insurance coverage wasn’t on the cutting edge of civil rights (if anyone has ever actually said that . . . or thought about it even) hasn’t been keeping up with Lambda Legal or its most recent lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, claims that the state of Oregon violated anti-discrimination laws by denying insurance coverage for a hysterectomy to a transgender man clerking for the Oregon Court of Appeals.
Homes, automobiles, and commercial property, OH MY!: Worse than the damage to Auntie Em and Uncle Henry’s house in the Wizard of Oz: insurance companies have already paid over $4.2 million in coverage for the damage caused by the Memorial Day windstorm (that did include tornadoes) in Fargo, North Dakota and the total could rise to $5.8 million.
David adds: There are also big flooding problems in Minot, N.D. The Souris River is going nuts. Lots of the town has been evacuated, including my niece, her husband and their kids, and they are living out on our family farm two hours away. "Souris" is French for mouse, the river originates in Canada, comes down to Minot and loops back up. I don’t like to brag, but Minot is where I went to undergrad, at the prestigious Minot State College — it had a great English department and was an awesome party school (I co-majored in English and Advance Party Studies). When I was a kid there was a big flood and they called it "The Mouse That Roared," but as I recall I don’t think it was anything like the size of this.
Insurance, bringing politicians together: One thing that always annoys me during election season is that with both parties so busy pointing out their differences, we miss the chance for politicians to come together. Well, the NY Times has solved this problem (really, solving a problem this big is as simple as publishing an article in the Times) by pointing out 4, count ’em, 4 insurance issues that Republicans and Democrats could possibly, if they try really, really hard agree on.
It was a rude awakening when I graduated law school and was faced with the realization that schools were able to beat the system and were not being totally honest when they report extremely high percentages of students with jobs after graduation. I remember hearing that Michigan students were well over 90% successful at finding a job before or soon after graduation. From what I could see in my own class, that wasn’t the whole truth. The school started "employing" students to work for few months at the clinics or at nearby firms who needed a temporary employee. I guess these jobs were at least better than being a nanny (not that I don’t love kids, but that’s not why I got a legal degree) or a chauffeur.
BUT! Don’t you fret, the ABA is (hopefully) coming to the rescue:
"The ABA will require schools to report the percentage of graduates who are employed and the types of jobs they have taken in much greater detail than they do at present. They must report whether graduates are in jobs that require a law degree; whether they are unemployed; whether their employment status is unknown; and whether they are in jobs funded by the law school or university. Critics have complained that some law schools give their graduates temporary academic jobs so they will count among the employed for purposes of U.S. News & World Report’s rankings."
Read the rest of this article here.
While it is nice that this will help future students have a more realistic view of their schools, I think the more important result from the ABA changes will be schools working harder to find real employment for their students. I feel fairly safe in saying students utilize these reports in deciding what law school to attend. Now, the schools will have to work harder and smarter to continue to draw top students into their ranks.
Will he write boxer briefs? Following the example of Bruno Campos (see page 11) and others who left the spotlight to attend law school, Juan Diaz, former unified lightweight titlist, is starting at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Law School.
More on boxers. Well, Sen. Boxer, and to be honest, the story isn’t really about her. But, it made for a good segue. I remember starting law school and being told that the legal world would beg to employ us when we were ready to enter the job market. Turns out, not so true. That being said, it will be interesting to see if the ABA meeting on June 11 brings about changes that will "improve the independent oversight, accuracy, credibility, and transparency of the data law schools have to make available to the public."
Higher education bubble: Are students finally figuring it out? University of Kansas Law School reported a 23 percent drop in applications and quoted a nationwide drop of 12-13 percent. Looks like students are getting smarter – but what about KU? Why are they spending money on recruiting instead of putting their money where it is needed…helping graduates find jobs!
And an insurance note for new grads. YOU DO NEED RENTERS INSURANCE!
David mentioned in his post on May 19, 2011 that he is going to have some help blogging and that he’s going to be broadening the format of the blog somewhat beyond insurance analysis including a de-Scruggsification of the blog. I’m Elissa Meyrowitz Boyd, a newly minted lawyer and a December graduate of the University of Michigan Law School. I can tell you that David’s first statement was true, I will be helping to keep you fully blogged; however, I cannot guarantee a de-Scruggsification of the blog….I haven’t known David to give up on anything yet. I will be blogging about being a recent law school graduate, the challenges of being a new lawyer and other topics that I think may be of interest. Please be patient with me as I learn, or at least don’t laugh at me too hard (unless I’m trying to be funny and then it’s OK). My bio is here, where you can read my fancy new blog title.
Elissa Meyrowitz Boyd, associate editor of the Insurance Coverage Law Blog, is the newest member of the Insurance Coverage team at BPM. Elissa, a Michigan native who graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in December 2010 (Go Blue!), also did her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan. She is currently working closely with David Rossmiller on cases involving complex commercial litigation, particularly insurance recovery and insurance coverage litigation.
Before becoming a lawyer, Elissa interned at the Legal Aid and YWCA in Omaha, Nebraska where she focused on helping survivors of domestic violence. She also interned at Miller Johnson P.L.C. in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She blogs Monday through Friday, major holidays excluded, on life as a new lawyer, insurance coverage cases, industry developments and other topics of interest.
You can contact Elissa at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-417-5468.
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