Hurricane Sally left 500,000 without power!

Hurricane Sally came through! The most severe wind damage seemed to be limited to areas near the coast or open bay waters.  What I saw was mostly minor damage to roofs and siding, seldom structural, let alone catastrophic.  At one point though, more than 500,000 residents were without power in Florida and neighboring Alabama, where the Cat 2 storm made official landfall, with maximum winds of 105 mph and up to 30 inches of rainfall.  Storm surge was upwards of 7 feet in coastal Escambia County (Pensacola) and adjacent Baldwin County, Alabama.

AIR Worldwide, the Verisk catastrophe risk modeling firm, estimates Sally’s insured losses will range from $1 billion to $3 billion, with wind representing the majority of losses.  This is exclusive of National Flood Insurance Program losses, which are expected to be especially steep in Alabama, given more than two thirds of flood coverage there is federal.  AIR’s estimates include residential, commercial, industrial, and automobile property losses including contents.  Last Monday includes pictures of flood inundation of upwards of three feet in downtown Pensacola and exclusive drone video and images from a few hours after Sally made landfall on September 16.  You’ll also see the unfortunate damage caused by a loose barge to the newly built southbound span of the Pensacola Bay Bridge, linking Pensacola to Gulf Breeze, on the barrier beach.

 

Two big trees that seemed to know to fall away from nearby townhouses in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally in Pensacola, FL, September 21, 2020.

 

FEMA last week approved a major disaster declaration for the storm.  It includes public assistance for all categories in Escambia County and public assistance Category B (emergency protective measures) for Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, and Washington counties.  The Florida Division of Emergency Management is continuing to conduct damage assessments in the 12 counties that did not receive all categories of Public Assistance.  The Division is also conducting damage assessments at individual residences and businesses and will continue to work with FEMA to apply for Individual Assistance.

The Governor has activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to support small businesses impacted by Hurricane Sally.  The program provides short-term loans up to $50,000, or in special cases $100,000, if warranted by the needs of the business.

 

Courtesy, AccuWeather

So we begin another process of filing and processing insurance claims.  The state has activated the Emergency Adjuster Licensing System to boost the number of insurance adjusters available to help residents with claims.  There are more than 150,000 adjusters currently licensed in Florida.  This activation allows insurance companies to bring in catastrophe adjusters from other states to help handle the increased demand.  Sally was the eighth named Atlantic storm to make landfall in the U.S. this hurricane season.

Contact Jones Family Insurance for all your Insurance needs. Serving Punta Gorda and Fort Myers Florida.

Basics of car maintenance: 8 tips to follow

We rely on cars a lot in our day-to-day lives and sometimes we put them through a lot… hot summer days, icy winter conditions, kicked-up rocks, potholes and more. Because your car may be one of your biggest expenses, knowing the basics of car maintenance can help you save on car costs. Even the basics, like changing your oil, checking your tire pressure and getting scheduled inspections, will help your car run smoother down the road.

Keep your car a well-oiled machine by following these eight maintenance tips:

  1. Check the oil. One of the most important things you can do for your car is to make sure the engine has the right type and amount of engine oil. Check your owner’s manual for recommendations. Routine oil and filter changes can remove particles and sludge and keep your engine in peak condition. The frequency of oil changes varies by vehicle, but a general recommendation is every 3,000-7,500 miles. You can check the oil level between oil changes using the dipstick – make sure your car is turned off before doing so. See other tips for safely checking your oil, too.
  2. Test the battery. Car batteries last an average of two to five years. You can promote longer battery life by testing the output voltage level with a car battery tester or multimeter. The battery voltage reading will show how “charged” the battery is. Consult your owner’s manual or mechanic if the battery test indicates it’s not at an optimal level.
  3. Top off fluids. From lubricating to cooling, your car’s fluids have important jobs to do. Refill fluids at the start of summer to prevent overheating, and check the levels again at the end of fall.
  4. Run the heater and AC. There’s nothing worse than turning on the air conditioning for that first hot day, only to have more hot air blown your way. Malfunctioning climate control could mean larger issues like a leak in the system. Keep your car comfortable and your heater/AC running smoothly by testing it periodically.
  5. Check the tire pressure. As the temperature rises and falls throughout the year, your tire pressure can fluctuate. Improperly inflated tires can affect a car’s handling, lower your gas mileage, increase wear and even lead to a blown tire. Check the recommended psi on the sticker commonly found inside the driver’s door. If there’s no sticker adhered to the driver’s door or side, check your owner’s manual. Adjust tire pressure accordingly. While you’re at it, check your tire tread and look for other wear or damage.
  6. Inspect the brakes. The best way to care for car brakes is by sticking to the suggested maintenance schedule from your car’s manual. Following a routine car maintenance schedule can prevent catastrophic brake failure and expensive repairs.
  7. Repair scratches and rust. Scratches can lead to peeling paint, peeling paint can lead to rust and rust can lead to structural damage on a vehicle. Improve your car’s appearance and longevity by fixing scratches and rust when they appear.
  8. Keep an emergency kit. Be prepared at any point by storing a car emergency kit with extra fluids, cables, tools, a spare tire and more in your trunk.

Along with following the basics of car maintenance, protect your vehicle with an auto insurance policy. Get your auto insurance quote at Jones Family Insurance. Serving Punta Gorda to Fort Myers.

Preparing for Hurricane Season Flooding

Hurricane season is upon us and with these storms comes the threat of flooding. Unfortunately, tropical storms can also be unpredictable and their path, intensity, and possible damages are hard to determine ahead of time. The best thing you can do if you are in a hurricane risk area is to always be prepared for these storms and the flooding they can bring. We have some tips to help you keep your family and home stay protected this hurricane season.

Before the Storm

Know Your Risk – If you live in a state that has experienced hurricanes in the past, you are at risk of being impacted by one in the future. However, depending on where your home is located the risks are different. If you are located closer to the coast, your biggest concern should be storm surge. As we move more inland, your preparation should focus on heavy rainfall with wind gusts. Knowing which conditions of a hurricane are more likely to impact your property will help you properly prepare. It is also important to know the elevation of your property, which will directly affect your flood risk. You can visit www.myfloodrisk.org to check the flood risk factors of your home.

Insure Your Property – One of the most important steps to take before a storm is to review your insurance coverage to make sure you are protected from any damage a hurricane might bring. A standard home insurance policy will not cover flooding or storm surge, two of the most dangerous and destructive effects of a hurricane. A standalone flood insurance policy is needed to protect your assets. When a storm is forecast to make landfall in your area it becomes more difficult to find coverage, so it’s necessary to check your policies ahead of time.

 

Prepare Your Home – Flood waters are extremely damaging, but there are some things you can do to reduce the impact to your home. Clean out any drains and gutters on your property, this will allow water to flow freely through these systems. Sandbags can be used as a flood barrier by diverting water from flowing through openings and diverting flood water around the structure. To reduce damage to your belongings, lift all furniture from ground level using concrete blocks. It’s also important to make sure electronics are unplugged if they could come into contact with water.

 

Have a Safety Kit – Every hurricane season you should stock a safety kit to prepare for every scenario that could happen during a storm. You will need food and water, enough to last each household member at least a few days. Your kit should also contain flashlights, batteries, a portal cell phone charger and a battery-operated radio, so you can still listen to news reports should the power go out. Any first aid and personal hygiene products needed should be included as well. Important documents such as insurance papers and important personal documents should be stored in a watertight case such as your dishwasher or washing machine.

 

During and After the Storm

Stay Inside – Do not go outside during the hurricane or immediately after until your local authorities say it is safe and the storm conditions have passed. There might be damage outside that you are unaware of and wind gusts will continue from the outer bands of the storm, which could lead to debris becoming airborne. Also if it’s still raining there is always the risk of flash flooding, which is extremely dangerous to get caught in.

 

Don’t Go in the Water – Flood water is full of contaminants from debris, sewage, animals and other pollutants. It’s important to your health that you avoid flood water if possible. Hurricanes often lead to downed power lines and power outages, these powerlines can be hidden by flood waters and electrically charge the water.

 

Contact Jones Family Insurance. We service North Port, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, Cape Coral and Fort Myers Florida – If you have flood damage from the storm, contact us as soon as possible. Your JFI agent can help you with the claim process and what to do first to prevent further damage to your home.

Florida Homeowners Market Update

Another homeowners property insurance Home Insurance Quote company has filed a double-digit rate increase with Florida regulators while Citizens Insurance has begun tracking contingency fee multiplier litigation, one of the cost drivers behind rates.  Plus a great history lesson about Florida’s market to pass along.  It’s all in this week’s update.

Rate Increase:  First Community Insurance Company, part of Bankers Insurance Group of St. Petersburg has filed for a 24.1% statewide average rate increase on its 22,464 HO3 homeowners policies.   The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) will hold a rate hearing on Wednesday (September 16) to consider the increase.

The company is among a growing number seeking double-digit rate hikes, brought on by the culmination of four factors we’ve outlined in the pages of this newsletter over the past 12 months: claims creep, growing attorney fees, rising reinsurance costs, and the resulting contraction of the private market with taxpayer-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corporation left picking up the policies.  Industry reports say similarly-sized increases are now permeating the commercial property insurance space.

Market Pressures:  Paul Handerhan, President of the Federal Association for Insurance Reform, recently provided a terrific education on how Florida’s insurance market has evolved since 1992’s Hurricane Andrew in this recent article.  He also explains the current-day litigation challenges that are putting upward pressure on homeowners rates.

Citizens:  Citizens Property Insurance Corporation has begun tracking lawsuits involving contingency fee multipliers.  While such fee multipliers used to be awarded only when a case was particularly complex and the plaintiff attorney showed it was a risky case to take on contingency, Citizens VP Elaina Paskalakis noted at a recent meeting that threshold has been eroded and is now easier to meet.

She put together the chart below of the most recent 12 lawsuits involving fee multipliers, some showing fees in excess of 1,000 or 2,000 times the indemnity ultimately paid in the case.  “The real impact is on fee demands.  Plaintiff attorneys are starting to come to us with higher fees and what they tell us they’ll be asking for in seeking multipliers.  We expect it will have a rather sharp impact on our cases going forward,” she told the Citizens Claims Committee.

Florida is the only state in the country that awards fee multipliers in such a way, due to a 2017 state Supreme Court edict (see How a $41,000 plumbing leak turned into a $1.2 million attorney fee).  Citizens Board Governor James Holton has aptly noted “this is the next great frontier for tort reform in Florida.”  We look forward to reporting on expected legislative developments in this regard.

Contact Jones Family Insurance for your homeowners insurance quote!

Florida Homeowners Market Update by Jones Family Insurance. Serving North Port, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, Cape Coral and Fort Myers Florida.

Important Developments Regarding PIP Insurance

PIP insurance or Personal Injury Protection, has the world of motor vehicle insurance providers on tenterhooks as the Supreme Court rules against an insurance company and in favor of the Florida Hospital Medical Center in the 5th District Court of Appeal. Personal Injury Protection(PIP) is mandatory insurance coverage for all registered vehicle owners in the state of Florida and serves to cover up to $10,000 in medical bills, damages, or losses stemming from a motor vehicle accident regardless of which driver was legally found at fault. Nevertheless, not everything is as simple as it seems as insurance providers as well as healthcare providers are all looking out for their best economic interests.  Thus was the underlying basis for the PIP case brought on by the Florida Hospital Medical Center, which held the Progressive Insurance Company liable for $200 in unpaid reimbursement for medical services rendered to one of their policyholders. A Progressive Insurance customer, a car accident victim, suffered personal injuries that accounted for $2,781 in hospital expenses. According to the official court records, his PIP insurance policy had a $1,000 deductible which the hospital subtracted before calculating the total amount using the formula under Florida PIP law. It turns out that the insurer did not apply the same method for determining the legitimate amount owed to the hospital and reached a total amount due of $868. This $200 difference, brought-on by subtracting the car accident victim’s  $1000 deductible, prompted the legal battle by the Florida Hospital Medical Center. The case, which has insurance providers around the USA on edge, ruled against the formula used by the insurer company to calculate the amount owed. The decision was based on the grounds that the insurance company should apply the deductible to the overall charges in line with the statutory provisions. The ruling will ultimately lead to all insurance providers in Florida ultimately having to pay more to hospitals and healthcare practitioners treating motor vehicle accident victims.

So where does PIP stand now? The new rule states (in a nutshell) that the deductible needs to be exhausted at the start. Statutorily, the minimum deductible is $1,000, so the first $1K is the responsibility of the insured person and the insurance provider doesn’t have to pay it. Until now, the insurance company was spreading out the deductible.

Get your Auto Insurance from Jones Family Insurance. Serving from North Port to Fort Myers Florida

The Florida Supreme Court is being asked to weigh in again on an insurance claims case involving an Assignment of Benefits (AOB) contract between a contractor and a homeowner.  It follows a recent ruling by Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal against an insurance company that refused to make insurance payments to a third party vendor.

In the case of Speed Dry Inc v. Anchor Property and Casualty Insurance Company, homeowner Wayne Parker had filed a damage claim with Anchor after suffering damage from Hurricane Irma in September of 2017.  He then entered into an AOB agreement with Speed Dry to handle the repair work and any claim negotiations with Anchor.  The AOB also allowed Speed Dry to receive payment directly from Anchor according to the terms of the insurance policy.  After Anchor refused to pay, Speed Dry sued Anchor for breaching the policy.

Anchor asked for and won a summary judgment in Seminole County Circuit Court, citing “alienation restrictions” in the Florida Constitution.  It contended that any insurance proceeds resulting from a loss to homestead property are constitutionally protected to the same extent as the homestead property itself and cannot be assigned by an AOB.  Upon appeal, the 5th DCA overturned the lower court decision, ruling an assignment of post-loss insurance benefits does not transfer title of real property…and is thus treated as an ordinary contract.”

“However, because assignments of post-loss insurance benefits are utilized so extensively, we certify the following question to the Florida Supreme Court as one of great public importance: Does article X, section 4(c) of the Florida Constitution allow the owner of homestead real property, joined by the spouse, if married, to assign post-loss insurance benefits to a third-party contractor contracted to make repairs to the homestead property?” the 5th DCA wrote.

A Florida Supreme Court decision last summer to dismiss an AOB case that it previously had agreed to review has left in limbo conflicting lower court rulings on whether insurance companies have had the right to deny AOBs without the sign-off of all parties with an insured interest.

For more information on AOBs and broader litigation abuse in Florida, contact Jones Family Insurance!

Professional liability and errors and omissions insurance both protect businesses from expensive lawsuits caused by unsatisfactory work. The language used may differ by industry.

the-importance-of-insurance-for-your-small-business

Professional liability vs. E&O vs. malpractice insurance

Many industries use the terms “E&O insurance” and “professional liability insurance” interchangeably. You may also hear these policies called “malpractice insurance.”

Common industry names for this policy include:

  • Professional liability insurance for architects, accountants, and consultants
  • E&O insurance in the real estate and IT sectors
  • Malpractice insurance in the medical and legal professions

No matter the name, this coverage protects you from lawsuits if you make a work mistake, fail to complete a project, miss a deadline, or are accused of professional negligence.

How professional liability insurance protects your business

Businesses that provide professional services typically need professional liability / E&O coverage because those services come with risks. A client could hold your business liable for:

  • breach of contract
  • work oversights or errors
  • providing substandard or incomplete work
  • missed deadlines

If these professional mistakes result in financial losses for a client, they could sue to recoup expenses. Professional liability / E&O insurance helps cover:

  • attorney fees
  • court costs
  • settlements or judgments

Even if there was nothing wrong with the quality of your work, a difficult or dissatisfied client could sue your business over a perceived problem. In that case, you might win the lawsuit but still have to pay attorney fees and court costs out of pocket. Without professional liability / E&O insurance, a lawsuit could present a major financial difficulty for your business.

Learn more at Jones Family Insurance – Serving Punta Gorda and Fort Myers

What is homeowners insurance?

Homeowners insurance is a type of property insurance that covers private residences. It offers financial protection in case of an accident, theft or disaster involving your home.

A standard homeowners insurance policy typically covers structural damage, personal belongings, liability and additional living expenses.

1. Structural damage

This is one of the key differences with homeowners vs renters insurance. In the case that your home suffers damage from theft, vandalism, or is destroyed by disasters such as fire, windstorms, hail, lightning or explosions, homeowners insurance can cover the costs of repairing or rebuilding it.

Your mortgage lender might refer to this as hazard insurance, but don’t let that trip you up. It’s just part of your homeowners policy.

Most policies also cover detached structures that are separate from your house, such as a garage or tool shed. These structures are generally covered up to a percentage of the insured value of your house’s physical structure, for example ten percent.

2. Personal belongings

Personal belongings that are stolen, damaged, or destroyed by an included disaster on your policy are typically covered. These may include:

● clothing
● furniture
● appliances
● computers
● TVs
● home decor
● wine and spirits
● sporting goods
● children’s toys
● electronics

Your level of coverage for personal belongings will generally be a percentage of the home’s insured value. So if where you reside is insured up to $100,000, and personal belongings coverage amount was to be 50 percent of this, the limit would be $50,000. The actual percentage used will vary from policy to policy.

Your homeowners insurance policy will also cover belongings that aren’t inside the property but included on your property: trees, shrubs, BBQ grills and patio furniture and so forth.

High-value items, such as jewelry, furs, artwork and antiques are usually covered in a standard policy. There are assigned dollar limits, so you’ll want to read the fine print.

3. Liability protection

Liability protection covers lawsuits against bodily injury or property damage that you, family members, or pets may cause to others. Such protection covers court costs and any awards you may have to pay in court.

Your policy also includes what’s called no-fault medical insurance. So if a visitor happens to be injured in your home, their medical bills can be paid by your insurance company.

4. Additional living expenses

Let’s say your house burns down and it’s now uninhabitable. While your home is being rebuilt, you’ll need to live elsewhere for a short while. Additional living expenses (ALE) covers any living away from home costs and eases the stress of being temporarily uprooted. These expenses may include lodging, meals at restaurants, storage fees, and other costs incurred while your place is being rebuilt.

And if you rent out part of your home, the amount you would’ve collected on rent while the home is being repaired would also be covered.

There are usually payout limits and time restrictions with ALE coverage. The good news is these caps are typically separate from your policy’s cap on repairing or rebuilding your house.

What won’t homeowners insurance cover?

A standard policy typically doesn’t cover wear and tear, or damage caused by an earthquake or flood. It also won’t cover mold if caused by say, high humidity or a preventable water leak.

Get your home insurance with Jone Family Insurance. Serving Punta Gorda and Fort Myers Florida.

Motorcycle Insurance & Safety – Serving Fort Myers Florida

When most bike owners are finally able to get out there on the open road. Before you take that first ride, make sure that your bike is up to the task and ready to go. Motorcycle maintenance and safety go hand-in-hand, and keeping your bike in great shape will ensure a great ride.

  1. Read the manual: Seriously, do it. Every bike is different, and it’s important to understand exactly what yours requires. Not only will give you the best overview of how to keep your bike in tip top shape; it might even save you money, because you won’t be servicing your bike more often than is truly necessary.
  2. Inspect your bike: To start, walk around your motorcycle and do a careful visual inspection. Look for damage, rust, leaks, and anything else that looks suspicious.
  3. Fill the fluids: Check oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, and coolant. Having clean fluids at the right levels will ensure your bike runs properly and that your motor lasts as long as possible.
  4. Air filter: Check the air filter and replace if necessary. This filter keeps dirt and debris out of your engine, so it’s pretty important.
  5. Keep it clean: Cleaning your motorcycle isn’t just about looking good while you’re out on the road–allowing grime to build up on your bike can also affect performance and cost you money in the long run. Clean your motorcycle while it’s cool using cleaning products especially made for motorcycles.
  6. Test the battery: Test your battery using a voltmeter to ensure that it’s in good condition–and so you don’t get stuck on the side of the road somewhere.
  7. Check the tires: Evaluate tire treads, check the air pressure, and look for damage. If your tires are older than five years, you should have them looked at by a professional–even if the tread still looks good.
  8. Brakes: Learn to check your brake pads by sight, and inspect them frequently during the season to stay safe and protect your motorcycle from unnecessary damage.

Insuring your Bike:

Before you hit the road, make sure you are protected. Motorcycle insurance can usually be purchased through your auto insurer. Much like car insurance, Jones Family Insurance will take into account what type of bike you have, you’re driving history, your age and how much coverage you need. Taking a motorcycle-specific safety course can reduce your risk of accident or injury, as well as your insurance costs.

Staying Safe on the Road:

There are many ways to reduce your risk of accident or injury while riding your motorcycle. Taking a safety or riding course can help you to stay current and learn how to drive in challenging conditions. Always wear a full coverage helmet (even if it’s not required), and never drive intoxicated. Do your part to keep yourself and other motorists safe on the road.

For all of your car and motorcycle insurance questions, call or contact Jones Family Insurance today.

Why Did My Car Insurance Rate Change?

Insurance rates fluctuate. It’s a fact of life. However, we get that it can still be a bit frustrating to witness a price increase when you’re least expecting one. That’s why we’re here to help lift the veil and do our best to explain a few reasons why your rates may have changed.

Basically, the concept of insurance is built on shared risk. A rise in claims tends to affect all drivers. All insurance companies, including us at Elephant, use a number of factors to determine your auto policies and how much they have to cost. Many factors are based on events in your life—perhaps you recently purchased a new car, or you’ve added a new family member to your policy.

Unfortunately, however, some factors are beyond your limits of control. For example, a spike in drivers filing auto insurance claims in your area can lead to a jump in costs. Or, the sheer volume of drivers on the road—and inevitable increase in accidents and fatalities—can lead to an increase as well.

Let’s review a few more reasons:

Your Vehicle(s)

Different types of cars cost different amounts of money to insure. There’s no way around it. Newer cars, for example, are loaded with the latest safety features to keep costs low. Older cars, on the other hand, are statistically more prone to mechanical failures. Plus, the more people you have on your policy, the more it will cost to keep everyone insured.

Seem obvious? Maybe. But it’s worth mentioning that no two cars—or drivers—are the same. (Yup. This is the time to talk about your teenage son who’s racked up a few speeding tickets.) Thinking of buying a new car? Let us know if you’re shopping around to see how that new model will affect your current rates. Similarly, give us a call if you’re adding a new driver to your policy.

Your Location

Have you ever moved to a new home and noticed a change in your rate? That’s because insurance companies use zip codes to determine rates based on factors like accidents, theft, vandalism, and more. Even if you move to a new part of town just a few blocks away, if your mailing address has a different area code, you may notice a change.

It’s also important to note that policies also vary from state to state. According to this list, Michigan and Maine are the most and least expensive states, respectively. Why does insurance vary by state, you ask? Again, there are numerous factors at play. Each state has different minimum liability requirements, costs of living, and population densities. And because requirements differ for each, drivers are left with differing policy costs.

Your Environment

It may not always feel fair, but rates aren’t always centered on your individual choices. What’s going on around you—your location, the environment, the market—can impact your rate. You may have a perfect driving record, but there are still other drivers on the road. You may take extra precaution to stow away your car, but that doesn’t always stop break-ins. What do these scenarios indicate? That life happens. But that you also may live in a high-risk area. Unfortunately, higher risk means higher rates—and a subsequent change in your policy.

Certain natural environments are riskier than others as well, as certain areas are more prone to inclement weather or natural disasters. If you live in a location that experiences frequent tornadoes, hurricanes, or flooding, we have to anticipate a correlated chance of having to spend more money to cover damages to your car. This means (you guessed it) higher rates for you.

New Technology

Vehicle technology is undoubtedly improving. Many cars now come standard with improved, state-of-the-art safety features, which is a net positive for drivers. Surprisingly, however, this improvement in technology can actually have a negative effect on your insurance rates.

While this may seem like an oxymoron, improved technology can actually lead to higher repair costs. While state-of-art technology certainly makes the driving experience safer and more reliable, the many computers, sensors, cameras, and other bells and whistles can be expensive to maintain and replace. And higher repair costs result in higher rates across the board for all drivers.

Learn more at Jones Family Insurance. Serving Punta Gorda and Fort Myers, Florida.