February 7, 2014

Nationwide/Farmland Insurance Reaches Settlement with Missouri Department of Insurance of Mistreatment of Policyholders

The Missouri Department of Insurance recently announced a settlement they reached with Nationwide Insurance Company and Farmland Insurance Company for mistreatment of their policyholders. In market conduct examinations, the MODOI found that these companies didn't apply the same standards to all customers, improperly calculated Second Injury Fund rates and utilized base rates they hadn't filed with the MODOI as required. For more information about this settlement, which netted policyholders $250,000 collectively, read the press release here.

December 3, 2013

TGFW Attorney Sidney Wheelan is Featured Presenter in UIM Claims Webinar

Sidney Wheelan, a partner with Tatlow, Gump, Faiella & Wheelan, LLC is the featured presenter in an upcoming webinar on Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Claims.

The webinar, entitled "Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Claims: Leveraging Insurance Stacking" will take place on Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. PST. The webinar will last approximately 90 minutes and will include a live question and answer session with the presenters.

Ms. Wheelan is a recognized expert in the field of Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist claims. She has successfully handled many lawsuits in this area of law, including several appellate cases on the subject. It would be a beneficial webinar to attend for any attorney practicing in the areas of personal injury and auto accident cases.

For more information, or to register for this webinar, visit the Strafford website here.

November 20, 2013

State of Missouri Reaches Settlement with New York Life for Mishandling Multiple Clains

The Missouri Department of Insurance has reached a settlement with New York Life.

New York Life is one of the largest insurance companies in the nation. They became the subject of an investigation by multiple state departments of insurance for their practices on how life insurance benefits and annuities were paid out. Many other similar insurance companies have also been investigated and sued for similar practices recently. Visit the Missouri Department of Insurance News release for more information.

November 8, 2013

Serious Technical Difficulties with Healthcare.gov Website Slows Health Insurance Sign-Ups for Missourians

Missouri is one of the states which has elected not to construct their own website to assist citizens in signing up for federal health insurance. Instead, Missouri is relying on the Federal website, Healthcare.gov, which has proved to be difficult, if not impossible for citizens to properly utilize thus far. See this news article for further discussion.

September 11, 2013

MODOT Seeking Comments As it Considers a Change to Dangerous Northern Missouri Intersection

MODOT has proposed additional changes to the Highway 63 and Route M intersection in Atlanta, Missouri after yet another fatal crash occured there recently. In the past, this intersection has been the site of many serious crashes and fatalities. MODOT is asking for public comments to the proposed intersection changes. To read more, visit their website for details.

September 3, 2013

EXCUSE ME! I PAID FOR THAT INSURANCE COVERAGE!!

A person is injured in an automobile accident. The negligent driver does not have enough insurance to pay for all of the damages, including medical bills. The injured person turns the remaining bills into their own insurance company for payment under the Underinsured Motorist provision of their own policy for which they have been paying premiums and the insurance company says "Sorry, no coverage for that".
Yes, it happens A LOT!

You may be right and the insurance company representative may be wrong in denying your claim. In a case handed down this week, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, sided with the injured party and against the insurer, Progressive Northwestern Insurance Company. Fanning v. Progressive Northwestern Insurance Co., W.D. 75943.

Fanning was seriously injured while riding his motorcycle when he was involved in an accident with another vehicle. The other driver was negligent and caused the accident.
Fanning collected $50,000, the policy limits of the negligent driver and made a claim with his own insurance company for underinsured motorist coverage. The declarations page of Fanning's Progressive policy indicated that he had purchased $50,000 of underinsured motorist coverage. It was not disputed that Fanning's damages exceeded $100,000. However, the insurance company denied the claim. Progressive claimed that the other driver was not "underinsured" because the other driver's limits were the same as the underinsured coverage limits on Fanning's policy.

Fanning contended that since he incurred damages in excess of $50,000 paid by the negligent driver's insurance, he should be able to collect up to the limits of $50,000 under the terms of his Progressive insurance policy. The court agreed with Fanning.
The Missouri Court of Appeals held that the Progressive insurance policy was ambiguously written and that the policy could be interpreted to provide $50,000 coverage for Fanning's injuries. It is up to the insurance company to use clear language in their insurance policies and if the language is ambiguous, it will be construed in favor of the consumer.

If you think your insurance company may have wrongfully denied your insurance claim, you should contact a lawyer who is familiar with accident claims and insurance law as soon as possible. The lawyers at Tatlow, Gump, Faiella and Wheelan, LLC of Moberly have years of experience and will work diligently on your behalf to recover all of the benefits you are entitled to.

August 21, 2013

Attorney Sidney Wheelan Presents Two CLE Programs

Sidney Wheelan, a partner at Tatlow, Gump, Faiella and Wheelan, LLC, recently presented continuing legal education programs to two separate groups of attorneys, both from Missouri and out of state. The first presentation: "Stacking-up: Understanding Automobile Insurance Policies" was given to attendees of the Missouri Bar Solo and Small Firm Conference in Branson, Missouri, on June 14, 2013. A similar program was given on August 20, 2013, to a multi-state audience though Thomson Reuters/West Legal Education Center.

Staying up to date on current legal issues and changing law is important to the effective representation of our clients. As members of the Missouri Bar and other legal organizations, Tatlow, Gump, Faiella and Wheelan, LLC understands that it is important to give back to the legal community by sharing our expertise and experiences with other attorneys.

Sidney Wheelan is a graduate of the University of Missouri - Columbia School of Law and has successfully handled many claims for personal injuries, insurance disputes, insurance bad faith, wrongful death, Workers' Compensation and Social Security disability.

August 12, 2013

Review Insurance Policies Before Kids Head to College

The Missouri Department of Insurance is encouraging families to review their insurance policies to see what is covered while students are away at college.

"It's important that students and parents discuss their insurance coverage now" said John M. Huff, director of the Department of Insurance. "You don't want to wait until you need to file a claim to find out whether you have insurance coverage."

The director of Missouri Department of Insurance advises that insurance needs and coverage may change when a student leaves for college. Here are some tips for families to assist them and make sure that their college-bound students are properly covered:

  • Auto insurance: If your child is taking a car to college, check with your insurance agent. The price and coverage of your policy may change based on the city and state where your child will live. Additionally, see if your insurance company offers a discount for a student's good grades.
  • Homeowners and renters insurance: Ask your agent if your child's possessions will be covered under your homeowners policy. Some policies cover a student's possessions if they live on campus. For students living off campus, consider renters insurance, which is quite reasonable.
  • Health insurance: Most young adults can stay on their parents' health insurance up to age 26, regardless of marital status, financial dependency, residence or enrollment in school. Students should take copies of their insurance cards and check their parents' health insurance plans to know which physicians and hospitals are in their network while away at school.
The department also encourages college students and all consumers to complete a home inventory, which is an itemized checklist of all possessions. A home inventory can make the process of filing a claim much more efficient in the event of fire, storm damage or theft.

To read more on this topic, as well as find some educational videos and useful checklists, please check out the Missouri Department of Insurance Website.

July 10, 2013

Go Paperless When Showing Proof of Auto Insurance

Missourians can soon go paperless when showing proof that they have auto insurance under a new law signed by Governor Jay Nixon.

House Bill 322 takes effect Aug. 28, and gives consumers the choice to prove that they have auto insurance by displaying their insurance identification card in paper or electronic format. Electronic formats such as on a smartphone or other portable electronic device may be used.

"Consumers are becoming more dependent on storing their important information on their smartphones or tablets for easier access," said John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance. "This law gives consumers the choice of utilizing today's technology when showing proof of auto insurance."

Missouri now becomes one of more than two dozen states that have passed similar legislation. California, Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota, Alabama and Arizona passed laws in 2012 for electronically showing proof of auto insurance.

House Bill 322 also gives consumers the choice to have insurance policies, such as a homeowners policy, sent to them electronically.

Huff said consumers will benefit from having electronic copies of their policies that can be easily saved and maintained on a computer flash drive or electronic device. Paper policies still can be mailed to consumers at no extra cost.

For more of this article, you may go here.

June 27, 2013

Missouri Department of Insurance Promotes Renters Insurance

The Missouri Department of Insurance is reaching out to consumers who rent homes and apartments with a new video about renters insurance. The video serves as an intro to what renters insurance covers and why it's necessary.

"Consumers who rent shouldn't assume their landlords are responsible for the replacement of their belongings should something happen," said John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance. "Renters insurance is affordable and some auto insurers discount premiums if you buy both coverages together."

Most renters insurance policies, which costs on average of $8-21 per month for $20,000-30,000 worth of coverage, cover damage to your belongings caused by fire and smoke, windstorm, hail, lightning, vandalism, theft, weight of ice or snow, and damage from a vehicle. Renters insurance also covers the cost of additional living expenses while consumers are displaced from their residence and medical bills if a guest is injured on your property. As with all insurance, there are limitations and exclusions which may apply, so be sure to ask your agent about what is not covered.

Huff encourages all homeowners and renters, including college students, to complete a home inventory, which is an itemized checklist of all possessions. An inventory of one's belongings can make the process of filing a claim much more efficient in the event of fire, storm damage or theft. It also gives consumers a good idea of how much insurance coverage they need to protect their possessions should disaster strike.

An easy-to-use home inventory checklist is available for free on the department's website, along with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' home inventory app for iPhone and Android smartphones.

To read more on this topic, ask general insurance questions, or file a complaint you may call the department's Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-726-7390 or visit insurance.mo.gov.

May 15, 2013

New Guide Makes it Easier to Understand Auto Insurance

The Missouri Department of Insurance is premiering its new auto insurance guide. This guide is aimed at first-time auto insurance buyers, and provides information to help better understand details of buying car insurance.

"Missouri has a very competitive insurance market with nearly 200 companies offering auto insurance," said John M. Huff, director of the Department of Insurance. "Consumers should take advantage of this market by understanding how auto insurance works. This guide provides detailed information that can help consumers make an informed decision when they are looking to insure their vehicle."

The guide outlines minimum auto coverage required by state law and optional coverage, and also provides tips to lower your insurance premiums. It comes with a worksheet to help you find the best coverage and rates. The guide also includes helpful questions to ask an insurance agent during the shopping process.

Other topics covered include:
•What to do if you are involved in an accident.
•Easy-to-scan QR codes to download the NAIC's WreckCheck mobile app (for your iPhone or Android smartphone).
•Who is covered by your auto policy.
•What is not covered in your policy.
•How to file a claim.
•How to read a declarations page.

You may download the guide here.

Read more here.

May 7, 2013

Over $6 Million Returned to Consumers by Department of Insurance

The Missouri Department of Insurance announced recently that consumers who filed complaints against their insurance companies received an additional $6.2 million in claim payments in the first quarter of 2013.

"Consumers should not assume that they've run out of options if their claims have been denied by their insurance company or they feel that their settlement is unfair," said John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance. "Our department is here to protect Missourians and provide them help when they've reached an impasse with their insurance company."

Health insurance had the most complaints in the first quarter of 2013 with 309 formal complaints. This was followed by auto and homeowners insurance. The top reason for complaints in the first quarter was claim denial. Delay of claim processing and unsatisfactory offer were also top complaints.

Read more here.

April 26, 2013

Insurance Accounts For Over 11% Of Total Vehicle Costs

The first "Your Driving Costs" study was done by Automobile Association of America (AAA) in 1950, when driving a car 10,000 miles a year cost 9 cents a mile and gas was about 27 cents a gallon. Fast forward to 2013. After accounting for gas, insurance, maintenance and depreciation, the average driver pays almost 61 cents a mile (according to AAA's current study).

The study also revealed that the price of car insurance climbed 2.76%, or $28, to $1,029 for the average motorist this year. That amounts to a little more than 11% of the total $9,122 people pay to operate their vehicles. Although the nearly 2% overall hike is significant, it is less than in other recent years. .

The numbers represent an "average sedan," which is a combination of statistics for small, medium and large sedans.

As for 2013 insurance costs, the association says its estimates "are based on a low-risk driver with a clean driving record." In its model, this "average" motorist is married, lives in a small city and commutes three to ten miles a day to work.

Read more about this study here.

April 5, 2013

Former Missouri Insurance Agent Defrauded Consumers

An investigation by the St. Louis County Police Department with the support of the Missouri Department of Insurance recently led to the conviction of a former insurance broker for insurance fraud. The St. Louis County woman pleaded guilty to five counts of stealing, six counts of forgery, eight counts of commission of fraudulent insurance act and one count of attempted stealing. A St. Louis County Circuit Judge sentenced the woman to three years on each count. The sentences will run concurrently.

"Maintaining consumer trust and confidence is of the utmost importance to our department," said John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance. "We are pleased that this investigation resulted in a conviction. I want to commend the work of our investigations section, the St. Louis County Police Department and the prosecutor."

Numerous consumer complaints led to the discovery that the former insurance agent was selling homeowners and auto insurance policies without a license and not submitting the premium she collected from consumers to an insurance company.

Evidence from the department's investigation was turned over to the St. Louis County Police Department, which launched its own investigation that led to her arrest on charges for forgery, theft and insurance fraud.

Consumers are encouraged to file complaints against agents or insurance companies they believe have violated Missouri law. Since the beginning of 2012, the department has revoked the licenses of 27 insurance agents.

For more information, or to file a complaint, visit Missouri Department of Insurance.

March 8, 2013

Winter Storms and Insurance - FAQs

There are many areas of uncertainty arising from winter storms, including what is covered under your homeowners policy. Most homeowners choose a basic policy with typical coverage. Many large insurers offer a standard homeowners policy with broader coverage. A policy may also contain riders that either expand or reduce coverage.

Coverage varies for debris removal, power outages, lightning, frozen water pipes, water damage due to the breakage of frozen pipes, and the weight of ice and snow causing a roof, porch, or deck to collapse.

Here are just a few examples of some possible winter storm items, and what a typical homeowners policy may cover.

  • Debris removal for trees: Generally speaking, the insurance company will pay up to $500 for the removal of trees from the premises if the tree damages your home or other insured property. That coverage includes removing a neighbor's tree that fell on your property. It doesn't matter who owns the tree, just that it causes damage to an insured building or fence.
  • Power outages: The typical homeowners policy excludes from coverage damages from power outages unless they result directly from covered "perils" (such as wind, hail, lightning, etc.). For example, if lightning strikes the house and causes a power interruption, the consequent spoilage of food in a freezer is covered.
  • Frozen water pipes: The typical policy covers repair of frozen pipes and the damage they cause. An exception can occur when the dwelling is vacant or under construction.
  • Weight of ice and snow causing roof, porch, deck to collapse: The typical homeowners policy covers damage involving collapse of an insured building or any of its parts caused by the weight of ice, snow or sleet.
The Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration strongly encourages you to contact your agent or insurer directly regarding specific questions you may have about your policy.

For answers to more questions regarding storms and insurance, please continue reading here.