Your state insurance commissioner wants (to help) YOU!

Insurance departments help consumers Years ago I had an ugly fight with my auto insurance company. I called about additional coverage and my insurer got the erroneous impression that I was married. Ergo, my so-called wife should be on my policy. The insurer kept calling ... and calling, gnawing on me like a dog on a rawhide bone. "We have you on tape!" shrieked one shrill agent. Enough was enough. I finally told my insurer (also on tape) that if the harassment didn't stop, I would complain to my state's insurance office. And I was very specific. I gave my insurer our state commissioner's name and the name of the person in his office who would be handling my complaint. Commissioners are politicians, too While most state insurance commissioners or regulators -- some of whom have other duties -- are appointed, some are elected. But one thing is certain: Many have higher political aspirations. In states such as California and Georgia, insurance commissioners have a history of running for governor. That means they love publicity, particularly if it makes them look consumer-friendly. But even if they don't run for state office, they have other positions in mind. Florida insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty, who fought… (continue reading......)

Do smarter cars encourage dumber drivers?

Do smart cars make dumb drivers? Actress Lindsay Lohan regularly demonstrates why auto insurance companies should stay in business. In her sixth infamous car wreck, Lohan demolished her Porsche 911 on the Pacific Coast Highway near Santa Monica, Calif. The front end appeared to have been stomped on by Bigfoot, but Lohan walked away with no damage. An article I read in USA Today used this latest incident as a way to extol the virtues of a Porsche: six airbags, struts that support the roof, and ultra-high-strength steel. But this is true of a lot of cars. During the past six years cars have gotten safer -- and will only improve in the future. But what I can't figure out is why drivers seem to get dumber when you engineer smarter and safer cars. Dumb and dumber The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that more than 7,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents in the first three months of this year, about a 14 percent increase over the same period last year. According to their statistics, this would be the first time fatalities have gone up in the winter months since 2006. And if the NHTSA's projections prove right, this represents the second largest… (continue reading......)

Senior surcharge: Older Americans stuck holding the bill for accidents they aren't having

senior woman driving car You should get a Miranda warning whenever you talk to your auto insurer. Each time I call, the monotone voice that answers the phone pokes and prods while tape recording our conversation. I am always wary of Miss Monotone. She is out to glean useful tidbits of information and try to trip me up so she can raise my rates. Over the years I've gotten pretty good at giving her one-word answers, not filling out so-called voluntary questionnaires, and, one time, even emailing my state's attorney general when my insurer had crossed the privacy line. So it was with great reluctance that I called to ask, "Why did you raise my rates this year?" Miss Monotone hemmed and hawed and then finally said, "Do you see the little letter below the nine in the fifth box?" This indicates that you're over 65. Statistically, you're in a category where your driving is deteriorating." Forever young I have to admit that I was stunned. I hadn't had a major accident in all the years I've been with this insurer. And now Miss Monotone was telling me that because of my birth date I was a serious road risk. My insurer had in… (continue reading......)

Why women hate me for being well-insured

dont-hate-me After a recent flight to New York, I was delighted when my homeowners insurance company reimbursed me for my lost luggage. You're probably thinking, "What a lovely insurer." But while it is lovely, it wasn't a surprise. At least not for me. Throughout my adult life, I've regularly been well-insured. Once, as I was walking through my burnt shell of a house, I was tapped on the shoulder and presented with a beautiful debit card for my hotel bills. Even windshield-repair men frequently shoo my credit card away when I try to settle my glass bill -- I have full auto glass coverage. And whenever I've asked what I've done to deserve such treatment, the insurance adjusters have always said the same thing: My policy covers it. If you're reading this, I'd hazard that you've already formed your own opinion about me -- and it won't be very flattering. For while many doors have been opened (and replaced, literally) as a result of my insurance, just as many have been slammed in my face -- and usually by my underinsured neighbors. Only my friend Samantha's beauty has provoked as much envy and ill behavior from those less fortunate. I'm not… (continue reading......)

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