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What’s the Future for Online Insurance Shopping?

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

The demise of Google’s online insurance comparison site Google Compare is being hailed by some in the industry as a victory for the traditional agency system.

But agents may want to hold off on breaking out the champagne. Leading online insurance shopping sites say they are not deterred by Google’s missteps in the online insurance shopping space. In fact, they are just ramping up and have big plans to expand their reach through partnerships with companies outside of the insurance industry.

“Insurance is not the reason Google Compare shut down,” said Keith Moore, CEO of online insurance compare, quote and buy site CoverHound.com, which was a partner of Google Compare that connected its users to CoverHound’s platform to purchase policies.

Moore said Google Compare’s issues had nothing to do with the industry or the CoverHound platform, which he says has been steadily growing since it first opened for business in 2010. CoverHound reported premium growth of 117 percent quarter to date year over year, and says it has already delivered 428,000 customer quotes through 30 carriers on its platform in 2016.

Moore also said that CoverHound’s Net Promoter Score – used to measure customers’ level of engagement, satisfaction and loyalty to a brand – was up overall by 32 percent to 78 (out of 100) and it had a rating of 81 for Google Compare shoppers who went through the CoverHound platform.

“We are seeing very positive trends in online insurance shopping…All comparison shopping sites are seeing positive growth right now,” he said. “[Google] will not directly impact the positive momentum in digital insurance shopping.”

Compare.com’s CEO Andrew Rose said his company’s comparison shopping model has also been successful and its former partner Google Compare’s exit is in “no way an indictment of the potential.”

“Comparison is the intersection of the internet and insurance, and you’ve got to know both sides to make them work,” he said.


$60,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Lingering Soft Tissue Injuries

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Adding to this site’s archived soft tissue injury database, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, assessing non-pecuniary damages of $60,000 for lingering upper body soft tissue injuries.

In this week’s case (Olson v. Yelland) the plaintiff was involved in a 2012 rear end collision.  The Defendant admitted fault.  The Plaintiff sustained soft tissue injuries to her neck, mid back and shoulders which continued to pose problems at the time of trial.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $60,000 Mr. Justice Weatherill provided the following reasons:

[117]     On the whole of the evidence, I accept that the plaintiff received soft tissue injuries to her neck, trapezius muscles and mid-back and headaches that continue to negatively affect her function to some degree.

[118]     I find that her pre-Accident lower back and left knee conditions would have significantly affected her ability to function at home and at work in any event of the Accident.

[119]     I find that prior to the Accident and in any event of the Accident, her competitive employability and ability to perform homemaking tasks had already been significantly compromised. The soft tissue injuries she received from the Accident were superimposed on her Original Position and made it more difficult for her to manage her day-to-day activities.

[120]     I find that the plaintiff has made significant recovery from the effects of the Accident within the past three years, but has been left with ongoing neck, mid-back, trapezius pain and related headaches.

[121]     The injuries the plaintiff is left with, and that I accept, are soft tissue injuries to her neck, mid-back and trapezius muscles. They have caused increased frequency and intensity of headaches.

[122]     I accept that these issues continue to affect her, and likely will continue for two to three more years. However, I find that the Accident related injuries pale in comparison to the unrelated issues she has with her low back and left knee…

[132]     In the circumstances, and following the principles set out in Stapley, I find that a reasonable award for general damages is $60,000. As will be seen below, within this sum I have included the plaintiff’s claim for reduced homemaking abilities.


Waterfront views come with high stake risks

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Images of a house slipping into a river near Victoria, B.C. earlier this week raise concerns surrounding extreme weather and its effects on some of Canada’s most enviable waterfront properties including whether or not your insurance company has your back.

Heavy rains eroded the riverbanks near an Esquimalt home, dragging the deck and retaining wall into the Gorge Waterway and leaving the house precariously perched on the edge.

Unfortunately for the homeowners and the segment of Canadians enjoying cliff, lake or riverside views from their couch, they aren’t likely protected by their insurance.

“It’s a standard exclusion, covered if caused by an earthquake but otherwise not covered and not available for purchase anywhere we can see,” explains Adam Mitchell, president and broker at Mitchell and Whale Insurance.

But it’s an issue on both insurance and government policy makers radar, says the broker.

“It’d be a pretty small sector of the population that could fall victim. You either need to be on cliff edge or bottom of a hill. But one of the things that is a high topic is the (spike) in overland water or flood damage,” says Mitchell.

He points to Alberta where flooding of the Bow and Elbow River in 2013 and the damages it wrought cost insurance companies $1.7 billion. Severe weather in other parts of Canada pushed that figure up nationally to more than $3 billion that year.

“It became a growing issue right after the flood in Alberta with many of those private residences having claims denied,” says Mitchell. “There was political pressure applied where companies came around and eventually started doing it but they realized there was no product to cover these larger and more frequent storms.”

Several major insurance providers like Aviva and Co-operators started offering flood coverage last year but it’s still not enough, according to Simon Fraser University’s Adaptation to Climate Change Team.

“The fact that Canada is the only G8 country without a national flood program is of concern,” says Pete Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations at industry association the Insurance Bureau of Canada. He points out that the U.S. has a hybrid industry-government program where the insurance industry sells a product, adjust the claims and the government pays them back for it.

“Now we’re seeing insurance companies starting to offer flood insurance for overland flooding in some cases and sewer backup coverage,” he says.

But waterfront property owners shouldn’t hold their breath.

“I think the concern is that, like any risk, homeowners go forward blindly. If you have a home with that kind of a view on a river or on a lake or at the edge of some nice precipice that you can see forever, you recognize there are some risks inherent of being located there,” he says. “So why should someone who is inland who has less of a risk of their property being flooded pay the same insurance rates of someone whose property backs onto a lake?”

Not to say that there’s no recourse. It’s possible to question the liability of the municipalities who approved the development in the first place along an area deemed a floodplain. But the success of that has yet to be tested.

“We have the conservation authorities and they know for the most part where the floodplains are,” says Karageorgos. “But that’s a longer conservation.”

He says the question about access to coverage and protection for all those beautiful waterfront properties comes down to demand.

“The market is competitive and the standard policies typically exclude these types of things,” says Karageorgos. “You may be able to find an insurer who will offer you that coverage but recognize that in the likelihood you do find it, because of the limited market size the cost will be greater.”


65% of Canadians wrongfully believe that home insurance protects against flood damage

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Square One finds 65% of Canadians wrongfully believe that home insurance protects against flood damage – ILSTV.com

recent survey of 1,500 Canadians, conducted by Square One, has found that 65% incorrectly believe that flood protection is included in home insurance policies. As shown in the attached graph, this misconception was most widely held in Manitoba and least widely held in Saskatchewan.

“We found that many Canadians across the country are unaware of the current state of flood protection in Canada,” says Daniel Mirkovic, President at Square One. “Water damage is the leading cause of insurance claims in Canada but most home insurance policies specifically exclude flood damage. Canada is the only developed country in the world where flood insurance has not been generally available.”

Until recently, Canadians that suffered flood damage had to rely on the Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA) programs provided by the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The 2013 floods in Alberta and Ontario caused $5.3 billion in damages, of which $3 billion was insured. Those having to rely on the DFA programs discovered that, even with the financial assistance received, they were out of pocket tens of thousands of dollars.

Recognizing that Canadians could be better protected, the insurance industry has started to change. Industry associations are working with the government to improve flood mapping and mitigation efforts. Five home insurance providers now offer some form of protection against freshwater flooding. With four of these five, protection is optional for eligible homeowners. The final provider automaticallyincludes this protection in policies of all eligible homeowners and renters.

Although each policy differs, most offer protection against damage resulting from the covering of dry land by freshwater or wastewater that:

  • Has escaped or been released from the normal confines of a lake, river, stream, natural watercourse, reservoir, canal or dam; or
  • Is generated by snowmelt or rainfall that cannot be dispersed by soil absorption, runoff and drainage.

The cost of this protection starts at $4/month for eligible homeowners and $2/month for eligible renters. It’s worth noting that most policies are not covering damage caused by coastal flood (or any type of seawater), ground water or rising of the water table. Policies also do not typically cover damage caused by gradual, continuous or repeated seepage.


Google to Shut Down Online Insurance Site, Partners Say

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

It appears Google Compare’s grand experiment in online comparison shopping for auto insurance is dead – for now at least.

Insurance Journal has learned that two of Google Compare’s major partners were told today that the giant tech firm is shutting down its online shopping comparison undertaking.

One former partner, Compare.com, heard the news not from Google, but from several of its carriers that are partners in Google Compare. Another unnamed partner confirmed it had been told of the pending shutdown. A third major partner described the Google move as “going dark” and that the business is retooling.

A Google spokesman couldn’t be immediately reached for comment. An official announcement from Google is expected to be made on Tuesday.


Canada: Cuba visitors face new medical insurance rule

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Canadians travelling to Cuba will be required to present proof of health insurance to enter the country as of Saturday.

To meet the requirement, travellers should have travel insurance that covers medical expenses, the Cuban government said.

“Upon arrival, travellers may be required to present an insurance policy, insurance certificate, or medical assistance card valid for the period of their stay in Cuba,” Foreign Affairs says in its travel report for the country.

“Those who do not have proof of insurance coverage may be required to obtain health insurance from a Cuban insurance company when they arrive.”

Provincial health insurance plans do not provide direct coverage for out-of-country emergency medical services.

Supplemental health insurance urged

Provincial plans may cover only part of the costs and will not pay the bill up front as Cuba requires, Foreign Affairs noted.

“It is therefore recommended that travellers purchase supplemental health insurance,” the department said.

Canadian visitors carrying only provincial government health insurance cards will have to pay Cuban hospitals, doctors or other providers in full at the time of treatment and then seek reimbursement from their provincial plans, which normally cover only a fraction of the charges.

Some private insurers also require the traveller to pay costs up front and be reimbursed later, Foreign Affairs noted.

All health insurance policies will be recognized except those issued by U.S. insurance companies, which cannot provide coverage in Cuba.

Provincial health plans also strongly urge residents to purchase supplemental travel insurance for any trips they make out of the country. Provincial plans also do not cover the cost of ground ambulance in Cuba or repatriation back to Canada on commercial airlines or air ambulance.

“People do need to have supplementary insurance, either purchasing coverage through their employer or employer benefit plan or on a credit card,” Martha Turnbull, president of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA), said in an interview.

The association also encouraged Canadians to get a letter from their insurance company or employer stating they do have coverage.

Turnbull suggested Canadians also consider insuring their travel arrangements since getting home early from Cuba or cancelling a trip can be expensive.


Garneau seeks Senate advice on rules, regs for future of driverless cars

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

OTTAWA _ Canada’s Senate, often accused of being an anachronism, is being asked to wrestle with the futuristic dream of driverless cars.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau wants the Senate’s transportation and communications committee to launch a study of the regulatory, policy and technical issues that need to be addressed so that Canada can safely and smoothly make the transition to self-driving vehicles a coming automotive revolution that’s already being road tested in Ontario and elsewhere.

His request for a Senate study is part of the Trudeau government’s attempt to recast the much-maligned upper house as an independent and valued institution that has an important parliamentary role to play.

It follows Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s creation of an arm’s-length advisory board to recommend non-partisan nominees for appointment to the Senate.

Among other things, Garneau says the committee should examine the potential for Canada to set standards for the development of automated cars that can operate safely on icy winter roads.The technology I’m talking about is not science fiction,” Garneau said during an appearance late Wednesday before the Senate committee.

“The technology I’m talking about is not science fiction,” Garneau said during an appearance late Wednesday before the Senate committee.

“It is in development today and has the potential to improve safety, efficiency and the environmental performance of transportation in Canada and other countries.”

Still, he said there are many questions that must be addressed, including the long-term impact on privacy, energy, land use, transportation demand and employment.

Garneau and Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly were invited to appear Wednesday before the committee to discuss the mandate letters given to them by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when they took charge of their portfolios. Garneau took the opportunity to ask the committee to launch a driverless car study.

“I’m one of these people who believes that the Senate is part of Parliament, that has done some very serious and very important and groundbreaking studies and I want to engage with them in the most productive possible way,” Garneau said in an interview.

Self-driving vehicles have the potential to make driving safer, he said, noting that automated vehicles “don’t fall asleep, they don’t drink.” And they’re potentially more energy efficient because “there’s less of a heavy foot on the gas and heavy foot on the brake kind of driving.”

But there are also challenges, like ensuring vehicles have backups should their computer systems fail and figuring out how to replicate human judgment in unpredictable winter driving conditions.

Driverless vehicles will automatically keep a safe distance from other vehicles but, Garneau noted: “We in Canada have to make judgment calls in the winter time when we’re on icy roads and black ice. So that’s got to be part of it as well because they’re not all nice California roads.”

Moreover, Garneau said automated cars raise issues of liability and insurance, cyber security, to ensure that vehicles’ computer systems can’t be hacked, and privacy, to protect those who don’t want their whereabouts constantly tracked.

“There are rules and regulations that will have to be put in place that don’t exist at the moment.”


Insurance experts: NHL has idea how many players will develop dementia, Alzheimer’s

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

By Rick WestHead |

The NHL has a good idea how many of its former players are likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other brain-crippling disorders, say insurance experts who specialize in the professional sports industry.

And lawyers for the 105 former players who are suing the NHL want access to the league’s insurance policies and related medical documents to see those projections for themselves.

Late Friday, a lawyer representing the former NHL players named Brian Penny filed with the court a motion requesting an order directing the NHL’s current insurer, Chubb Corp., to produce all of its NHL-related documents.

Penny served Chubb with a subpoena for those documents on Apr. 20, 2015, but Chubb, which has been the NHL’s insurer since at least 2001, has refused the request.

Penny declined to comment through a spokesperson. Neither Chubb lawyer David Newmann nor NHL spokesman Gary Meagher replied to an email requesting comment.

“The likelihood that the NHL does not already know the probability of players getting Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases is nil,” said Mark Wahlstrom, the president of Wahlstrom & Associates, a Phoenix company that advises former professional athletes on insurance claims.

“When an insurance company is pricing out a policy for the league, they look at all the risk factors for players, the same as they would with a policy for airline pilots. The insurance company uses that data and statistics to produce an underwriting report that would be given to the NHL.”

Chubb would have compiled actuarial valuations — a type of appraisal that requires making economic and demographic assumptions to predict future financial liabilities — to predict the probability of players suffering brain diseases before the company agreed to offer insurance coverage to the league, said Christopher Fusco, a New York lawyer who has worked on class-action insurance lawsuits filed by injured workers, but who is not working on the NHL case.

“Chubb would look at data from players who have made workers’ compensation claims, look at all the NHL’s internal data and medical records and Chubb would then give an underwriting report to the NHL to say, ‘this is why we are charging you what we are charging you’,” Fusco said.

A group of 105 former players are suing the NHL in U.S. federal court in Minneapolis, charging that the NHL didn’t do enough to warn its players about the long-term risks of suffering multiple concussions. The league, the players say, profited from and marketed violence.

The NHL, on the other hand, counters by saying that any player complaints should be dealt with in arbitration, not in court, because of the league’s collective labour agreement with the National Hockey League Players’ Association. The league also says players could have “put two and two” together about the risks of returning to the ice after brain injuries.

In a May 18, 2015, letter to Penny, Chubb lawyer Newmann wrote that producing the documents “would impose undue burden and expense” on the insurance company. Chubb also objected to the subpoena because it would require the company to “produce material containing or reflecting confidential, proprietary, or trade secret protected information…”

It’s unclear when the court will hear arguments on Penny’s request for an order.
Insurance experts say the concussion lawsuit in the NFL offers a window into the sort of data that has likely been compiled by Chubb and the NHL — the only mainstream sports league to permit and promote bare-knuckle fighting.

As part of a proposed $1-billion settlement in the NFL lawsuit — a U.S. appellate court is deciding whether to approve the settlement after some 175 players opposed it — the NFL was required to make public data about the long-term health of its players. That data shows NFL players are far more likely than the general public to develop Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s and other cognitive disorders. If the statistics held by Chubb are anything like those disclosed in the NFL lawsuit, they would be troubling for the NHL.

“It wouldn’t be good news for the NHL,” said Dr. Matthew Lorincz, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Michigan and a co-director of Michigan NeuroSport, the university’s sports neurology clinic.

But Lorincz said he suspects the statistics in hockey would not be as gloomy as those in football.

“There can be some big hits in hockey, but there’s not an offensive and defensive line that are teeing off on each other every play of every game,” he said.

The NFL admitted in court documents filed in September 2014 in U.S. federal court in Philadelphia that it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems. The league admitted conditions are likely to emerge at “notably younger ages” than in the general population.

About 28 per cent of former NFL players — as many as 5,900 — will develop brain injuries that would merit compensation under the terms of the settlement, but only 60 per cent, or 3,600, of those players were expected to file medical claims, the NFL said in court filings.

According to assumptions produced by lawyers for the NFL’s actuaries and disclosed in September 2014, NFL players younger than 50 had a 0.8 per cent chance of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia, compared with less than 0.1 per cent for the general population.

For players aged 50 to 54, the rate was 1.4 per cent, compared with less than 0.1 per cent for the general population. That gap between the players and general population widens as the age of players increases.

The actuarial data presumes that 220 living NFL players have dementia now, and that about 1,500 will have the disease in the future.

The data was released publicly in response to petitions made by several media organizations and several of the 5,000 former NFL players suing the league.

Not everyone believes it’s a certainty that the NHL has data related to players and brain disease.

Robert Boland, who teaches sports law at New York University, said that even if Chubb has documents about players developing dementia, it’s possible that they were never shared with the NHL.

“If you’re the league, you don’t want to know this data,” Boland said. “If you become aware of it, you really do have to deal with it. If this data is out there, and the NHL knew about it, it really does become a smoking gun against the league.”

For insurance companies, understanding risk is critical.

There are more than five million people with Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S., where there is no socialized Medicare, and the average monthly bill for a private room in a skilled nursing facility in the U.S. costs $6,900 per month, according to the American Elder Care Research Organization.

Then there’s the cost of medication.

“When someone has these illnesses, there is not enough money in the world,” Wahlstrom said.

Wahlstrom said he’s currently working with a former NFL player who is hoping to receive $620,000, his potential payout as part of the NFL’s concussion lawsuit settlement.

“The average time from when someone begins exhibiting symptoms until when they need full attendant care is three-and-a-half years,” Wahlstrom said. “Maybe he’ll be able to squeeze two or three years out of his settlement.”

“Again, that’s why the insurance companies want to know what their risks are going to be. Medical care can produce a very big bill.”


ICBC’s Hall of Shame: Cyber Fraud Files of 2015

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

ICBC’s Hall of Shame: Cyber Fraud Files of 2015 – ILSTV.com

A woman too hurt to go to work yet finds time for roller derby, a man who sets his own truck on fire then tries to make a claim, and a man who completes a grueling 12-mile obstacle race despite claiming to be severely injured — these are just three phony cases caught by ICBC, using evidence found publicly available online. Many of those who exaggerate claims expose their own lies by posting photos and updates on their social media profiles that are inconsistent with their claims.

Insurance industry estimates indicate 10 to 20 per cent of auto insurance claims contain an element of fraud or exaggeration. Meaning, fraudulent claims like these cost B.C. up to $600 million each year, or every driver more than $100 on their annual insurance policy.

In order to combat fraud and keep costs down, ICBC has enhanced its Special Investigations Unit by taking many of its investigations online. Last year, 2350 cyber cases were opened. ICBC has also beefed up its training program to help frontline staff detect fraud, and later this year, ICBC will purchase special fraud software that will help to quickly flag patterns and high predictors of fraud at the beginning of the claims process.

While the vast majority of ICBC’s customers are honest, there are some drivers that choose to exaggerate or make false claims. ICBC’s anti-fraud campaign intends to raise awareness about fraudulent insurance claims and its financial impact to all B.C. drivers.

Here are some cases that happened in 2015 of people caught red-handed online:

Roller Derby Ruse
After getting into a crash, a woman complained that her injuries were preventing her from going back to work as a hairdresser. But according to her Facebook and Twitter accounts, although she may not have been able to go to work, she still had the energy to go hiking, running, and join a roller derby team. A rising star on the rink, her updates regaled the many injuries she incurred as one of the ‘hardest hitters’ on the team. When confronted with the evidence, the woman agreed fair compensation was about half of what she was originally demanding, and she settled her claim.

Kung Fu Cure
A Lower Mainland man claimed that he was unable to go back to his desk job due to his injuries, following a collision in Vancouver. Shortly after his claim was submitted, investigators found pictures of him on Facebook showcasing his athletic prowess, while supposedly recovering from his crash. In one photo, posted by a friend, he’s seen crossing the finish line of a grueling 12-mile obstacle race in Whistler. In another, it’s a video of him taking down an opponent at a mixed martial arts facility. After the evidence was shown to him, he quickly settled his claim, citing a miraculous recovery from his injuries.

When There’s Smoke…
A Kamloops man reported to police and ICBC that his truck – which he claimed was in good working condition – had been set on fire by vandals. The representative who took his claim smelled smoke, so ICBC’s cyber investigators did some digging and found the same truck listed for sale on Craigslist. In the description, the owner revealed his motive when he wrote that he was putting his vehicle up for sale because he couldn’t afford to pay for the repairs his truck sorely needed. Furthermore, the estimator inspecting the vehicle uncovered physical evidence confirming that the fire was suspicious. The man was denied payment on his claim, and was left with an idle truck.

Million Dollar Mischief
A Kelowna woman was involved in a minor MVA when she was hit by a motorcycle while walking in a crosswalk with friends. The case went to trial where she demanded $1M for her injuries. In court, the judge heard the woman make inconsistent statements, and found the reports from her father and medical providers contradictory to her claims as well. ICBC investigators also submitted social media posts that challenged her claims. As a result of the overwhelming amount of evidence that showed she had grossly exaggerated her injuries, the judge denied her $1M request and awarded her only $20,000 for her actual injuries. She was also required to pay for ICBC’s legal costs – about $34,000.

Insurance fraud increases claims costs, which leads to higher premiums for every British Columbian needing auto insurance.

The public can protect their wallets by reporting suspicious activities related to insurance fraud to ICBC’s toll-free tips line at 1-800-661-6844. Tip information is confidential and callers can remain anonymous.