Wednesday, March 18, 2015

OIC helps develop training for examining, analyzing insurers’ climate change risk

As the state’s insurance regulator, one of the things the Office of the Insurance Commissioner does is examine and analyze insurers’ finances to make sure they have enough money in cash and investments to pay consumers’ insurance claims. Climate change is increasingly a risk to insurers’ business, both from a claims standpoint and from an investment standpoint.
Some of OIC’s friendly financial examiners participate in a dry run of a new training for state regulators to evaluate insurers’ climate change risk.

Commissioner Kreidler has led the climate change work group for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) since 2006. As part of that work, the OIC led a work group that developed the guidance for other state regulators to use when evaluating insurers’ climate change risks and investments during financial examinations and analyses. Last week, the OIC’s financial examiners and analysts were given a dry run of the training to offer feedback before it is presented to other state regulators. In essence, insurers are expected to identify climate change-related risk to their business and evaluate how these factors may affect their claims and how they invest their money.

Washington is not new to working with insurers on climate change. Since 2010, our state has been one of a handful that requires insurance companies to answer an annual survey about how they are addressing their risk related to climate change.

You can read more about Commissioner Kreidler’s work with climate change and read the most recent report about how insurers are addressing climate change.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Tacoma woman trades guilty plea, diversion program for dismissed charges in insurance fraud

Isabel Osorto, 23, of Tacoma, pled guilty to insurance fraud and agreed to complete a diversion program in exchange for the charge being dismissed.

The charge stems from a December 2012 collision in which Osorto hit another car. Later that day, she purchased insurance for her car and filed a $9,000 hit-and-run claim on her car three days later. The insurance company was tipped off that something was amiss when the driver of the car she hit contacted her insurance company about the damage to his car, which was supported by the citation she was issued by Washington State Patrol. She was charged with one count of insurance fraud in September 2014.

The terms of the diversion program include pleading guilty, full repayment of the restitution amount, payment of all administrative fees and full compliance with all program requirements. In this case, the restitution amount is zero because the insurance company did not pay Osorto’s $9,000 claim. The charge against Osorto will be dismissed once she completes the terms of the program. If she fails to complete the program, the charge against her will be reinstated.

The OIC’s Special Investigations Unit investigates insurance fraud and works with the Attorney General’s Office or local law enforcement—in this case, Pierce County – to prosecute criminal cases. Consumers can report suspected insurance fraud on the Insurance Commissioner’s website.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Will my insurance pay to replace a damaged convertible top?

The unprecedented sunshine we are experiencing in the Pacific Northwest may be enticing drivers to take their convertibles out for a spin. But do you know what your insurance policy will cover if something happens to your top or interior? 

Depending upon the age of your vehicle, your insurance company may not pay for the full replacement cost of the convertible top if it is torn from the vehicle or someone damages it. Some companies apply what they call “betterment” to the value of the car, taking into consideration the car’s age and condition. Another way of describing betterment is thinking about life span – car parts have different life spans and once they near the end of their life span, paying the full cost of replacing those parts would result in your car being in better shape than it was when it was damaged, thereby increasing its value.

The same idea applies to the interior of your vehicle. If someone damages the interior while your open convertible is parked somewhere, the insurance company may not pay the full cost of replacement or repair. It is also important to note that standard auto policies do not cover any personal property in the vehicle and any equipment that was not installed by the manufacturer. After-market items like sound systems, paint jobs and other special or upgraded equipment very well may not be covered by your policy.

Talk to your insurance agent about what your policy covers and does not cover.

Read more about auto insurance on our website. Questions? You can contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Insurance Commissioner offers considerations about sharing economy

Forbes estimates up to one quarter of the population participates in some form of the sharing economy, whether it be ridesharing, renting out your home or sharing something you already have to make money.

We put together some information and tips for entrepreneurs and consumers alike to consider before they participate in the sharing economy. You can find that information here. 

Questions? You can contact our consumer advocates online or at 1-800-562-6900.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Protecting insurance consumers all year round

This week is National Consumer Protection Week and the OIC is one of the many government agencies that helps protect consumers from financial harm.

So what does that mean for Washington consumers?

Consumer protection is part of the OIC’s mission, which is reflected in the way we do business. Our consumer advocates can help:
In 2014, our consumer advocates fielded 6,135 consumer complaints and helped recover more than $9.5 million in insurance billings, refunds and other claims-related issues for Washington citizens. Read more about the ways we helped consumers in 2014.

We share information of interest to insurance consumers on this blog and through our social media channels. Many of our blog posts are generated by questions our consumer advocates receive from Washington citizens.

More resources for consumers:

Consumer advocates Andy and Barb helping consumers on the phone.