Friday, March 11, 2011

What a tsunami would look like in Seattle

The experts say it's inevitable that the Seattle area will be hit with another Tsunami similar to the one from 1,000 years ago. But now we have the technology to show you what it would look like.

(video courtesy of NOAA's Seattle Inundating Mapping Project)

Tsunami and insurance - what's covered

A Tsunami advisory was issued today in response to Japan's 8.9 earthquake. An advisory means that a tsunami capable of causing strong currents or waves dangerous to people near the coast is expected --- although widespread flooding is not expected.

What counties are affected? Check Washington's Emergency Management Division site for specific county information.

If you're concerned about property damaged by flooding or high waves, the National Flood Insurance Program has helpful information on:

Preventing flooding around your home
Pumping out a flooded basement
Protecting your home from back flow
Cleaning up and drying out your home

Unfortunately, if your home, business or property is damaged by increased waves or flooding, your typical homeowner's policy or commercial policy most likely will not cover it. You must have a flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program

Learn more about flood insurance, See if your home or property is in a flood zone and if so, what's your level of risk.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"My dog was hit by a car. Will the driver's auto insurance cover the vet bills?"

Here's what happened: A woman was walking her dog. Both got hit by a car. Both survived.

The woman's medical bills were covered by the driver's Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. (This is a little-known fact, by the way: PIP also covers pedestrians.)

But for the dog, the insurer only offered what it considered the animal's value: $75. The company wouldn't pay the veterinary bills for the badly injured dog.

The sad fact for pet owners is that under insurance law, pets are considered personal property. An auto policy's medical coverage doesn't cover pet injuries. Under the law, it's as if the driver had struck a mailbox. The company estimates the value of the personal property, then offers to pay that amount.

That said -- and this is not legal advice -- the owner might be able to sue the driver for the dog's medical expenses, as they are part of the dog owner's damages and may be covered under liability for property damage. But the owner would have to weigh the costs involved.

And if the animal was a fancy show dog, for example, the owner could likely prove a higher value for the dog. Our Consumer Advocacy folks once helped intervene to get a higher insurance payment for a dead goat.

The key point, however, is probably this: It often pays to buy health insurance for a pet. Here in Washington state, 11 insurers sell a total of 39 different policies covering pets. Some cover accidents only. Others include annual physicals, vaccines and cancer coverage. Most cover only dogs or cats; one company also offers coverage for birds and exotic pets. Every policy offers a multi-pet discount, and some offer discounts for pets with a microchip, etc.

What's it cost? According to the rates they've filed with our office,
  • Coverage for cats ranges from $83 to $926 a year; most policies are $150-$250 annually.
  • Coverage for a dog ranges from $107 to $1,059 a year, but most coverage is between $225 and $400 annually.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bill to end secrecy of health insurance rate info passes WA House

A bill that would let the public see far more health insurance rate information has passed the Washington House of Representatives.

Under state law, Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler's office is now barred from releasing virtually all the information that insurers submit to justify premium increases. House Bill 1220 -- requested by Kreidler -- would end that secrecy.

"In today's tough econmic climate, people deserve to see where their money's going," said Kreidler

Here's a link to a press release about the bill.

Power restored at our main building

Just fyi: Our main office in Tumwater, lost power at about 9:19 this morning. It's still out. Many of us are working on backup power.

UPDATE: Power's back on. (10:30 a.m.) This post headline originally said "Power's out at our main building."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Washington to get $500,000 from AIG settlement

Washington state will receive $500,000 as part of a multi-state settlement with American International Group, Inc., better known as AIG.

The settlement includes a $100 million fine, divided among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The company will also pay roughly $46.5 million in additional taxes and assessments. It also agreed to follow a compliance plan designed to fix the problems uncovered in a multi-state probe.

At issue was the company’s pattern of failing to comply with laws related to their handling of workers’ compensation programs. An examination team found a pattern of widespread violations, including using rating plans that hadn’t been filed with regulators and false reporting of the insurance premiums from workers compensation.

Although Washington state provides workers compensation coverage through a state-run program, it became part of the process because it was uncertain if the premium re-allocation would affect the state.

The $500,000 settlement does not go to the insurance commissioner’s office. The money will be deposited in the state’s general fund to pay for other state services.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Job opening: Receptionist

Due to a retirement, we have a job opening for a receptionist.

The person will greet and help visitors and customers visiting our building, as well as answering the main phone line and provide first-tier assistance for people. The person will also analyze service-of-process papaerwork, assist with mail, scan documents, and other duties.

For a more detailed description, please see the job description. Applications are due by Monday, March 7, at 5 p.m.