Categories
Insurance

Is the "Never Pay" Insurance Policy Making a Comeback? How to Fight It (Part II)

“In your policy it states quite clearly that no claim that you make will be paid. You unfortunately plucked for our Never-Pay Policy, which if you never claim is very worthwhile – but, uh, you had to claim – and there it is.”

-Mr. Devious to Reverend Morrison about the letter from the insurance company refusing to pay the Reverend’s claim for damage to his car that was hit by a lorry while standing in a garage. Monty Python and the Flying Circus, circa 1971.

In the last article, I focused on the business and societal ills that can result from insurance carriers acting as if they were selling Monty Python’s proverbial “Never Pay” policies. I also mused about a Utopian carrier that would write clear and easily understandable policies, and that would actually pay claims instead of paying claims adjusters to write reservation of rights and denial letters and a legion of lawyers to fly around the country litigating with the insurer’s own customers.

Now, I do not mean to suggest that carriers never pay claims. In many instances, they act responsibly. Unfortunately, it seems that some carriers (or certain claims adjusters) act as if they sold you a Never Pay Policy, and this attitude, at least based on observations from my little part of the legal world, seems to be increasing. Equally unfortunately, our Utopian carrier, at least to my knowledge, does not exist.

This article will begin to explore how the real world works and some tips for navigating the confusing world of insurance. I must, however, begin with this caveat. There is no way to make sure that claims that arise in the future will be covered, and there is no way to assure that your carrier will be reasonable. I am often truly astonished at the positions taken and incredibly creative arguments that insurance adjusters make to try to deny claims. There are some tips that may, however, increase your chances of success. This article will cover some of the basics. The next article will discuss when you probably need to consult with coverage counsel.

1. Find a good broker. Most insurance is bought through brokers or agents. Find an experienced broker, preferably one with experience in writing insurance in your industry. The broker should take the time to meet with you and develop an understanding of your business. The broker should know what you do and how you work in considerable detail. You may have particular risks that raise concerns. These risks should be discussed in detail. A good broker will likely raise other issues that may never have occurred to you. If a broker does not want to take the time to understand your business and review the risks, find another broker.

How do you find a good broker? Ask around. Do some research on the broker. Find out how many people the broker employs. It is probably not necessary to use a giant like Aon or Marsh, but be sure that your broker is well established. It is also helpful if the broker has a little size. Why? If a carrier is balking regarding a claim, a broker can sometimes step in and act as your advocate. It does not always work, but sometimes it helps. If the carrier views the broker as an important source of business, it may be more likely to pay the claim.

It may be helpful if you put in writing to the broker the risks that you want to make sure are covered. This will make sure that the broker has focused on the issues. Ask the broker to review any exclusions to coverage or endorsements that the insurer will require. Endorsements can include additional exclusions. Go over all exclusions and endorsements with the broker, and try to make sure that they do not create a hole in the coverage for potential risks of your business. If the broker makes a mistake and advises you improperly regarding coverage, the broker may be liable to you if the carrier fails to cover a claim.

A necessary implication of using a broker is that you will not be purchasing insurance online. Many carriers, particularly personal lines carriers (home and auto) are selling insurance online in an effort to cut out broker or agency fees and commissions. I would not advise buying business insurance online and would advise you to exercise extreme caution in buying even personal lines insurance online. A good broker is well worth having.

2. Check out the carrier. A broker may propose one carrier or several. Check out any proposed carrier’s financial strength. The broker can usually provide financial strength ratings, such as by A.M. Best, and explain them to you.

Any broker or policyholder’s coverage lawyer knows that some carriers are better about paying claims than others. Ask the broker about this issue. Ask the broker whether the broker would be comfortable relying on this carrier for its own insurance. Do some of your own research. “Google” the carrier online. You will probably begin to get a feel for the carrier’s reputation.

3. Do not buy based solely on price. It is tempting, particularly in the current economic environment, to take the cheapest quote that is offered. If your choice, however, is between buying a cheap policy from a carrier with a bad reputation and buying a somewhat more expensive policy from a carrier that has a good reputation, think very carefully before taking the “bargain.”

It is also worth noting that you should make every effort to make sure that you are comparing “apples to apples.” Make sure that your broker outlines any substantive differences between the cheaper policy and the more expensive policy. The cheaper price may be partially explained by higher deductibles or self-insured retentions (the part of the loss you must pay), lower policy limits, or endorsements that eliminate coverage for particular risks that may be important to your business.

4. Get copies of your policies and keep them with other important papers. I am often asked to evaluate insurance coverage issues. Of course, the first thing I need is a copy of the insurance policy. It amazes me how difficult it is in many instances simply to get a copy of the policy.

It also is clear to me that many business people do not even have a clear understanding of what an insurance policy is. Often, when I ask for a copy of the policy, I am provided with a one page copy of what is known as the “dec page.” This provides almost no help in evaluating coverage, other than determining the policy limits.

Just so the issue is clear, an insurance policy typically consists of three components. First, there is the previously mentioned declarations page, or “dec page.” This is usually one page (sometimes two) and it summarizes the types of coverage and the policy limits. The policy limits establish the maximum amount the carrier will pay. Limits are typically stated as “per occurrence,” meaning the maximum the carrier will pay for one event. Sometimes, the limits are stated to be “per claim” or “per accident,” which will establish the maximum amount the carrier will pay for a single claim or accident. There are also “aggregate” limits. Aggregate limits establish the total maximum amount the carrier will pay in a given period (typically a year) regardless of the number of “occurrences” or “claims.”

Note: There are important differences between “occurrence” based coverage and claims made coverage. These differences are beyond the scope of this article, and should be discussed with the broker. Most general liability coverages are “occurrence” based. Much professional liability coverage (for architects, engineers, attorneys) is written as “claims made” coverage.

The second part of the policy is the “body” or “policy form.” This is the main part of the policy, and includes the insuring agreement (what the policy will cover), exclusions to coverage (types of events that are not covered), conditions to coverage, and definitions. This, in essence, is the insurance contract, and is what a coverage lawyer or insurance professional will need to begin evaluating any coverage question.

The third part of the policy consists of any endorsements. Endorsements are amendments to the policy. Endorsements can be very important and they can substantially alter the rights of the insured. Endorsements can include, for example, additional exclusions to coverage. For example, one now often sees endorsements with “fungus” exclusions. These exclusions were added by many carriers after many claims were reported several years ago for alleged mold-based property damage or bodily injury.

The policy will usually be delivered after it is purchased, sometimes long after it is purchased. The policy should include the declarations, policy form and any endorsements. Typically, it will be stapled together.

It is a good idea to keep a copy of the policy stored away from your place of business. Why? If there is a loss (a fire, for example) at your place of business, the policy will probably be destroyed. Copies can be maintained in a safe deposit box, or a copy could also be stored in an electronic form where it will be remotely backed up.

The important thing is to have ready access to the policy. Yes, your broker should have a copy. Yes, it should be possible to get a copy from the insurer. However, you would be surprised how tedious this process is. If you have a catastrophic claim and need to consult with a coverage attorney, it is vastly preferable to have a copy of the policy readily available.

5. When you get the policy, review it. Take a careful look at the policy. Does it appear to be what you and the broker discussed? Do there appear to be exclusions or endorsements that affect coverage that were not discussed? If so, call your broker and go over these issues immediately.

One of the practical problems with the way insurance is sold in the U.S. is that the policies are not written in a readily understandable way. Unfortunately, even a careful reading of the policy is not likely to identify every possible issue that may arise. However, it does not hurt to go over the policy and to bring any possible issues that jump out to your broker’s attention.

6. Make inventories and take pictures. A big problem that exists for many property claims is documenting the property that was destroyed. It is a good idea to make lists of property (including, if known, the purchase price), and to take photos or videotapes of property. There are many cheap and easy to use video cameras, such as those by Flip video, that will fit in a shirt pocket. Many digital cameras, even ones that are quite inexpensive, now have video capability. Lists and videos can help eliminate disputes in the event of a claim. Electronic copies of lists and videos should be stored remotely or so they are backed up remotely.

7. If there is an event that may lead to a claim, take pictures. If there is an unusual event that may lead to a claim – such as, for example, a large hail storm – take pictures of the event. Take photographs of the hail or the weather event. If you have a video camera, take video.

It is unfortunate, but some insurance claim adjusters will try to deny that a weather event was substantial enough to cause damage. They may argue that generalized weather information, or even damage to surrounding buildings, is not enough. Although I do not think that many courts would agree with this approach, having photos or a video can end the debate.

Note that some policies require that particular types of property be separately scheduled. This can be true for personal and business lines of insurance. Ask your broker whether this should apply to you, particularly if you have unique and highly valuable property (jewelry, artwork, unique business machinery, etc.).

Conclusion. If you follow these basic steps, you will be more ready to deal with a claim than the average insured. In the next article, I will get into some of the details that may arise if there is a claim and if you need to consult with an insurance coverage attorney.

Categories
World

New York City transit workers and the fight for social equality

As 40,000 New York City bus and subway workers remain on the job after five-and-a-half months without a contract, there is increasing sentiment for a counter-offensive against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s demands to impose draconian concessions.

The brewing fightback, however, is not simply a struggle against a single transit agency. It is part of a broader battle by the whole working class against the capitalist system and both corporate-controlled parties. In order to pump more profits into the pockets of the financial aristocracy, the Democrats and Republicans are starving vital services of resources and seeking to reduce workers to the conditions of virtual slavery.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), on behalf of Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo and backed by Wall Street, is attempting to implement a far-reaching restructuring of the public transit sector. Its demands go beyond “normal” wage and benefit cutting. Instead, the MTA is demanding an expanded use of contractors, an introduction of part-time employment for subway and bus personnel, and the abolition of the eight-hour day. It also wants to reduce vacation time and impose penalties on workers who become ill.

Following the model of such “gig economy” companies as Uber and Amazon, government agencies want to make temporary, part-time labor with poverty wages and few benefits the norm in the public sector as well.

Transit officials announced a plan to cut between 1,900 and 2,700 jobs over the next three years, first through attrition then via layoffs. Already the agency has eliminated 79 subway cleaning jobs, with the go-ahead of the union, as they move to purge the system of higher-paid and more experience transit workers and replace them with low paid contractors and temps whom they can exploit without limit.

This attack is combined with service cuts, fare hikes and a new tax on drivers. The MTA recently axed 11 bus routes and is currently “reviewing the possibility” of scaling back or eliminating more subway and bus service. Fare hikes are now an annual occurrence, which will be supplemented in 2021 with a congestion pricing scheme, a regressive tax on drivers pushed through by governor Cuomo with support of Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio and Transport Workers Union (TWU) local 100.

Cuomo and the MTA have also engaged in a cynical public relations campaign to blame the fiscal crisis on workers supposedly abusing overtime and then on “fare-beaters.” Some 500 cops have been added to crack down on passengers avoiding fares, a move hailed by the TWU, and police have been assigned to spy on workers clocking in and out of work.

The cause of the MTA’s growing debt, now estimated at $44 billion and rising, is not transit workers or working-class passengers trying to eke by. It is the result of the looting of the city by the super-rich. The MTA is one of the largest issuers in the $3.8 trillion municipal-bond market and its bonds are found in the portfolios of the richest people looking for havens from municipal taxes. In addition to paying interest to these wealthy bondholders, the MTA also pays out millions in fees to banks like Barclays, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America/Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch.

Under capitalism everything goes to the rich. There are unlimited resources to bail out Wall Street, provide unlimited corporate tax cuts and wage endless wars. The ballooning stock market allows the ultra-wealthy to shuttle from luxury townhouse to penthouse suite, while workers fight for wages that barely cover rent and homeless take shelter in the subway system.

Transit workers are fighting alongside striking teachers in Chicago, GM and other autoworkers, and masses of workers and youth from Chile to Lebanon who are pouring into the streets in unprecedented numbers to oppose social inequality.

The main obstacle to the unification of the working class are the trade unions, like the Transport Workers Union, which are allied with the Democrats and defend without question the capitalist system and the economic and political dictatorship of the financial elite. The United Auto Workers union just betrayed the 40-day strike of GM workers, accepting the closure of plants and a vast expansion of temps. In Chicago, the teachers’ union is scrambling to end the two-week strike of 25,000 educators.

Today is the first major rally called by the TWU after nearly half a year without a contract. While the MTA has put forward its demands for blood, the TWU has refrained from articulating any demands for improved conditions for transit workers. The last thing the TWU wants is a strike. That is not just because it fears fines and losing automatic dues checkoff, but above all because it would win popular support and could become the catalyst of a direct confrontation with the union-aligned Democratic Party.

As former Local 100 president and current TWU national president John Samuelsen told a New York Times reporter, as he was caught leaving a lavish fundraising affair of businessmen for Cuomo, “the governor has been the best governor for the trade union movement ever.”

If transit workers are to take forward their struggle, they must take the initiative in their own hands through the formation of rank-and-file workplace committees, which are independent of the TWU and based on what transit workers and their families need not what the corporate-controlled politicians and union bureaucrats say is affordable.

These committees should demand a 40 percent wage hike to offset years of stagnating wages, the conversion of all second-tier, temp and contract workers into full-time workers with full pay and benefits, and the extension of industrial democracy, including workers’ control over safety and working conditions.

Transit workers must unite with every other section of the working class—logistics and retail workers, teachers, health care and service workers and college and high school youth—to build up a political counter-offensive of the working class against the capitalist system and for socialism.

A radical redistribution of society’s wealth to meet the needs of the majority will not be achieved through appeals to the conscience of the rich or through the capitalist Democratic Party, like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claim. It will only be achieved through a frontal assault on the private fortunes of the super-rich and the expropriation of their ill-gotten gains. The debts owed to the banks and wealthy bondholders must be canceled as part of a program of transforming the giant banks and corporations into public enterprises collectively owned and democratically controlled by the working class.

Transit workers are not facing a limited trade union struggle but a political fight, which requires mobilizing the entire working class to fight for socialism. The Socialist Equality Party and World Socialist Web Site are fighting to build the revolutionary leadership for this struggle.


Categories
Mortgage

Common Law Lien – A Powerful Fight Foreclosure Tactic

Common Law Lien is a Resource for Justice When Fighting Foreclosures

What if you could stick it to the bank for 100 Years? The elements of a Common Law Lien would allow you to do just that. Think you can get the bank’s attention now? YES! They will be ALL ears.

Unknown to most homeowners facing foreclosures is that they can actually protect their interest in the house too. Just like the bank is trying to by foreclosing. Homeowners MUST ACT Fast and place Common Law Liens on property before it forecloses! After foreclosure is NOT effective as ownership rights are lost.

To understand the basics of CCL we must first identify what an actual lien is. A lien like a Common Law Lien represents a claim against property. However, a lien is a legal document that demands that an obligation be met. As stressed it represents a claim against property. When it comes to a lien it is attached to freeze title in the homeowner’s name, the person listed as the owner of the property that is liened. A CCL attaches a lien on PROPERTY that the lienor has lawful possession of. In this instance possession does not mean ownership of the property. The elements that make up Common Law Liens explain what the lien or is entitled to.

If the homeowner has been evicted from the property they would no longer be in lawful possession. To place a lien on the property would require a Commercial Lien because someone else now has lawful possession. A Common Law Lien is a solution to lien property that the bank is trying to foreclose on. This allows the homeowner facing foreclosure to protect assets.

Common Law Lien Elements

The biggest concern of most homeowners facing foreclosures is their investment in their homes. While true many may not have much equity today because of the declining real estate markets but what about years and years from now? What about those homeowners who actually do have tons and tons of equity?

Worry not because the CCL elements can assist homeowners with recovering their equity investment.

Here are the three elements to evaluate what the actual amount of a Common Law Lien should be. A secret weapon formula!

1. Principal Equity

Calculate the exact amounts of ALL principal payments you have made on your mortgage.

Make sure NOT to include interest payments, this is ONLY for principal payments. DO NOT LIE; you must be able to back up this information.

2. Principal Improvements

Calculate the exact amounts of ALL improvements you made to increase the VALUE of the property including outside on the land. Make sure to only apply principal amounts you paid and NOT interest. General maintenance and repairs cannot be considered as improvements.

3. Life Experience

Calculate the VALUE you have invested in time spent in the home. Consider the meaningful events you experienced while living in the home. During your living experience in the home did you cry, laugh, work, dance, sing, fall in love, etc. You have essentially become attached to the property and owed for time spent.

Categories
Credit

Fight Your Bad Credit Score to Earn Your Dream Car

Life is way too short for a bad credit score

Let your car dreams soar!

There are smaller things in life you never really care to enquire about. And why would you? There is so much going on in the world. Especially when you want to buy a car, you are so occupied with the selection of the car’s model; your eye gives credit score a miss. Don’t ignore your score because it might be the only reason you still don’t own the car. Start to improve your score today and earn your dream car!

It is not a perfect world in which you can easily buy your dream car with cash. You need an auto loan to buy a car. Your credit score will ascertain your chances of getting an auto loan. A bad credit score may pose as a challenge but do not worry. It is a temporary issue. Don’t put your car dreams at rest. Allow it to soar.

If Not Now, When?

Your credit score is important. And you may not notice how much a bad credit score can affect your dreams until it’s too late. Don’t wait for the time to teach you the importance of score.

The sooner you begin fixing your score, the better it will be for you. So get your plan together and get to work. It will take some time and effort but having a good credit score is now possible.

· Check your Credit Reports

Check your credit reports with all the major credit bureaus. It will enable you to see any errors which might prevent the lender from giving you the best interest rates. If you spot any error, dispute it and have the item removed from your credit report.

· Stick to your Budget

Work out the math. You know what you make and how much it costs to keep up with your regular bills and expenses. You also need to set aside money for making regular payments towards your auto loan. Making late payments can hurt your score. Reduce expenses so that you do not have any problems in managing the auto loan.

· Use Credit to build Credit

The best way to build a good credit score is to apply for an auto loan and pay it back on time. Purchase your next vehicle with the help of a bad credit auto loan. There are special lenders who look at factors beyond your score in order to approve your auto loan request. Once you buy your car, you can make timely payments to boost your score.

Remember that your score needs time to improve. So, it is better to get started now. Let today be the day to fight your bad credit score. With time, your score will heal and you will be the owner of your dream car.