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Jun 20
Video: Can You Use That Name?

​We often hear of Connecticut and New York insurance agencies operating under names that are different from the names on their New York licenses. Watch this video to learn why you shouldn't do that. You'll also learn what the process is for getting the right name on your agency's license.

 


Jun 18
Adirondack Insurance Exchange: Your Questions Answered

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As we previously reported, on May 28 the financial strength rating of Adirondack Insurance Exchange (AIE) on the website of insurance carrier financial ratings agency Demotech was withdrawn. AIE, a subsidiary of Allstate Insurance Group headquartered in Western New York, posted the news on its website, as did Demotech. AIE sent an email on May 28 to its agents about the action; Demotech has not publicly commented.

Over the last several days, many Big I New York members have contacted us with questions and concerns about this development. We will attempt to answer them here, but our information is limited. The best sources of information, should they choose to provide it, are the carrier and the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS.)

Why did was AIE's Demotech rating withdrawn?

Demotech has not said publicly. On May 28, AIE sent an email to its agency force which said:

“Adirondack Insurance Exchange has been facing a surplus shortage for the last several years due to the severe increase of the cost to settle claims. … Due to the rapid rise in loss costs and the need for further rate infusion, the capital of Adirondack has deteriorated over the past few years. In attempt to improve and rectify the shortage, Adirondack entered a sustainability plan with the New York Department of Financial Services in which we are still actively participating."

What is a “sustainability plan"?

That phrase does not appear in New York insurance law or regulations, so it seems to be an informal term. It does not mean that AIE is in “rehabilitation." Rehabilitation is a legal term that applies when a court has given an insurance regulator authority to oversee a carrier's operations. During the time  the regulator has that authority, they attempt to get the carrier on a path to meeting state policyholders' surplus and other financial requirements. A recent check of the website of the New York Liquidation Bureau found no reports of any court proceedings involving AIE.

As best we can tell, the sustainability plan AIE has entered with DFS is not mandated by law but shows evidence that the carrier is working with DFS to address its financial issues and protect the interests of its policyholders.

Has Big I New York learned anything more about the situation since its May 29 post?

No.

Does New York have a guaranty fund that would cover claims if AIE becomes insolvent?

Yes. It is formally known as the Property Casualty Insurance Security Fund and is authorized under Article 76 of the New York Insurance Law.

How much coverage does the Fund provide for claims an insolvent carrier is unable to pay?

Section 7603(a)(2) of the New York Insurance Law titled “Property/casualty insurance security fund" states, “… no payment on any one claim shall exceed one million dollars …"

It should be noted that Sect. 7603(a)(1)(H) states that the Fund covers, “… any obligation for the return of unearned premiums …"

How will this action impact insured homeowners who have mortgages, in terms of the mortgage lender's insurance requirements?

That will likely vary from one mortgage lender to another. Concerned homeowners should inquire with their lenders to find out whether they need to do anything.

Was Adirondack required to send letters to its insureds (as it did recently?)

We are unaware of any provision in New York Insurance Law that required them to notify their insureds, but we also believe it was the right thing to do.

Should the fact that Allstate owns AIE give insureds comfort, or is Allstate washing their hands of AIE?

We have no way of knowing. As the parent company, Allstate may make additional investments in AIE if they so choose. We have no knowledge of their plans.

Is Allstate legally required to provide financial backup to AIE?

We are not aware of any provision in New York Insurance law that would require Allstate to do that.

What is the process for obtaining relief from the Property Casualty Insurance Security Fund?

First, understand that we are quite far away from involvement by the Fund, should that even be necessary. While we are not experts on the insolvency process, this is our understanding based on what happened in 2023 with United Property & Casualty Insurance Company:

  1. The regulator where the carrier is domiciled (in this case New York) examines the carrier's financial condition. If they conclude that the carrier is solvent, they may monitor the situation for some time but will not take immediate action.
  2. If the DFS concludes that the carrier is insolvent, it must apply to a court of competent jurisdiction (New York State Supreme Court) for a declaration that the carrier is insolvent and that DFS should be appointed to operate the carrier during a period of either rehabilitation or liquidation.
  3. Should the court grant this request, DFS assumes operation of the company until it is either rehabilitated or liquidated.
  4. If the insurer is to be liquidated, the court will set a deadline for interested parties to submit claims against the carrier. This deadline is typically one year following the declaration of insolvency. After all claims are submitted, DFS will pay claims out of the carrier's remaining assets. If those assets become exhausted, then the P/C Security Fund will pay claims up to the $1,000,000 limit mentioned above.
  5. No claims submitted after the deadline are honored, and no recovery from the P/C Security Fund is possible after a court formally judges the carrier to be liquidated and dissolved.

All of this occurs over a period of years. Right now, we do not know the extent of AIE's financial difficulties, let alone whether DFS will need to step in further than they already have. If the P/C Insurance Security Fund eventually becomes involved, it will be a long time from now. 

What advice does Big I New York have for agents on how to handle this situation?

The advice we gave in our May 29 post remains the same:

“Big I New York members who have placed coverage with Adirondack may want to consider contacting affected clients. Our ebook The Big I NY Big Book of Form Letters & Other E&O Tools contains a form letter for contacting an insured whose carrier has been downgraded. The letter can be adapted to fit this situation. The book is a free member benefit for Big I New York members; non-members can download it at a cost of $99.00."

In addition:

  1. Contact AIE to see if they will provide additional information.
  2. Contact your insureds (or respond to them if they have contacted you) and tell them what you know (which is what we've provided in this post.)
  3. Ask them if they want you to look for a replacement policy.
  4. Encourage them to check with their mortgage lenders to determine whether the lenders will require a replacement.
  5. Document all conversations with insureds on this matter.
  6. Lastly, comply with your agency's legal duty as stated in the New York State Court of Appeals 1997 decision in Murphy v. Kuhn: “…(I)nsurance agents have a common-law duty to obtain requested coverage for their clients within a reasonable time or inform the client of the inability to do so …" 

​W​atch the Newsfeed section of this website and our ICYMI newsletters for any additional news we may have to report.
Jun 12
Legislative Update: Session Adjourns with Significant Wins for IAs; Other Insurance-Related Bills Pass Legislature

The New York State Senate and Assembly adjourned for the year on Saturday after a flurry of last-minute activity. Throughout the session, Big I NY's government relations team engaged on dozens of bills, and when the dust settled, the value of our efforts was clear.

Supplemental Spousal Liability Changes Passed:

Both houses of the legislature passed Big I NY-backed changes to supplemental spousal liability insurance, exempting unmarried drivers and commercial coverage from automatic enrollment. These common-sense changes will end the frustration experienced by many customers when the automatic enrollment law went into effect last year. Governor Hochul is expected to sign this legislation into law.

Harmful Anti-Business Bills Blocked:

Big I NY was also instrumental in blocking a disastrous bill which would have substantially increased the liability exposure of all businesses. The bill would have expanded the scope of prohibited business practices to allow private lawsuits for even the most minor of perceived violations and created generous incentives for consumers to file lawsuits. This would result in a wave of abusive litigation against businesses and make it more difficult and costly to obtain coverage. Big I NY was the only producer group to forcefully oppose this legislation, joining with dozens of employer associations throughout the session to voice our concerns. Big I NY agents sent over 500 emails to their lawmakers and made nearly a hundred phone calls to Assembly leadership in the closing days of session. These efforts paid off, with the Senate amending the bill to exclude DFS-licensed entities and individuals, and the Assembly declining to bring the bill to a vote by the full house.

The legislature also failed to act on sweeping legislation to ban the use of non-compete agreements, which Big I NY opposed. This would have significantly disrupted our industry and created a significant barrier to mergers and acquisitions.

We also strongly opposed a bill which would throw the rental habitational coverage market into turmoil by banning the use of lead paint exclusions. While well-intentioned, this enormous potential claim costs of this bill would drive carriers from the market and make rates unaffordable. The Assembly passed the bill, but it was successfully blocked in the Senate.

Wrongful Death Expansion Bill Passed, But Future Uncertain:

Both houses of the legislature passed legislation significantly expanding the scope and potential damages for wrongful death lawsuits. Big I NY, along with a broad coalition of groups representing insurance, business, healthcare, and local governments, strongly opposed this bill, as it would substantially increase insurance costs. The bill's future remains uncertain – it has been vetoed twice by Governor Hochul, and the version passed this session does little to address the concerns she identified. We will again urge the Governor to veto this harmful proposal.

Other Legislation of Interest Passed by the Legislature:

Uniform Windstorm Deductible Trigger

Position: Support

Status: Passed both houses

Summary: This bill directs the NYSDFS to establish regulations to create uniformity in the operation of windstorm deductibles. Currently, insurers utilize a wide range of windstorm deductible definitions and deductibles, resulting in confusion among consumers over what is covered and their potential exposure. This bill benefit consumers and independent agents by reducing confusion through uniform industry standards.


Mental Injury Claims for Work-Related Stress

Position: Oppose

Status: Passed Senate and Assembly

Summary: This bill expands to all workers the ability to receive PTSD coverage under NYS

Workers' Compensation Coverage identified work-related stress. This bill will increase workers' compensation coverage costs and is likely to result in a rise in fraudulent claims.


Authorizing Stand-Alone Business Interruption Insurance

Position: Neutral

Status: Passed Senate and Assembly

Summary: As demonstrated with the COVID-19 pandemic, a business may be forced to close without the insured property or neighboring property suffering physical damage. Also, insurers, particularly in the excess line market, wish to write business interruption insurance that is not tied physical damage as part of active shooter policies. This bill would amend Insurance Law § 1113(a) to make business interruption insurance an authorized kind of insurance that does not need to be tied to physical damage and would amend Insurance Law § 2105 to permit this insurance to be written in the excess line market if it is unavailable from authorized insurers.


Limitations on Anti-Concurrent Causation Clauses

Position: Neutral

Status: Passed Senate and Assembly

Summary: This legislation will prohibit an insurance policy from excluding coverage for any loss of or damage to property resulting from water or water-borne material that backs up through sewers or drains, or overflows or is discharged from a sump, sump pump, or related equipment, on the ground that the loss or damage also may have been caused directly or indirectly by an excluded peril contributing concurrently or in any sequence to cause the loss. The bill applies only to non-commercial policies.


Owner Controlled Insurance Programs

Position: Neutral

Status: Passed Senate and Assembly

Summary: The purpose of this bill is to allow the Department of Transportation, The State University of New York at Buffalo, and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to utilize owner-controlled and contractor-controlled insurance programs in connection with certain construction projects.

 

Legislation of Interest Not Passed by the Legislature:

Elimination of the “Diligent Effort" Requirement for Commercial Excess Lines Transactions

Position: Support

Status: Passed Senate, did not advance in Assembly

Summary:  This bill eliminates the requirement to obtain three declinations from admitted insurance carriers before placing commercial coverage in the excess market, in situations where coverage is placed by a licensed excess lines broker. The excess market offers greater flexibility on rate and coverage than admitted coverage. It is of vital importance to effectively serve consumer needs. The current process of requiring three declinations creates unnecessary time and paperwork burdens for agents and their insureds and can result in a delay getting the proper coverage.


Elimination of the NYC Anti-Arson Application

Position: Support

Status: Passed Assembly, did not advance in Senate

Summary: This bill eliminates the anti-arson application required for fire insurance coverage on properties within New York City. In 1981 when New York first enacted its anti-arson application law, arson for profit was a significant economic and societal problem. New York's anti-arson

application law was enacted to give insurers ownership and property valuation information to assist in the investigation of arson for profit and to require property owners to sign a fraud statement. However, present-day arson investigation techniques no longer rely on the anti-arson application form to determine ownership and property valuation and fraud statements are collected through other means when adjusting a loss. Insurers have access to a multitude of third-party sources to determine ownership and property values. Since the information collected on the form is no longer used, completing and collecting the form (which is required for both new and renewed insurance policies) creates a significant burden for both consumers and insurers.


Stricter Penalties for Staged Construction Accidents

Position: Support

Status: Did not pass Senate or Assembly

​Summary: This bill establishes the crime of staging a construction accident, which is a class E felony. Staged construction accidents harm all New Yorkers. The workers involved in these schemes, sometimes unwittingly, may be harmed or coerced to undergo risky and even dangerous medical procedures. Fraudulent claims drive up costs to all insureds and taxpayers, delay the completion of important projects, and exacerbate the state's already strained insurance market. They drain resources from fraud investigators and law enforcement. Recent reporting has revealed that staged accident fraud is on the rise, orchestrated by sophisticated criminal enterprises. Our current law is inadequate, and serious criminal penalties are needed to deter this costly and dangerous crime.

 

Increased Penalties for Orchestrating Staged Auto Accidents

Position: Support

Status: Did not pass Senate or Assembly

Summary: This bill imposes criminal penalties on those who recruit, hire, or otherwise direct others to engage in staged auto accidents. On March 22, 2003, Alice Ross, a 71-year-old grandmother, was killed as the result of a staged auto accident. These "accidents" are often arranged and intentionally committed by criminals who then file fraudulent insurance claims for fake crash injuries and rob insurance companies and their policyholders. While the economic cost of such activity is staggering with no-fault insurance fraud estimated to cost insurance companies and their policyholders $1 billion per year, staged accidents also pose a serious public safety risk, as is demonstrated by the untimely death of Alice Ross. In 2019, New York state signed “Alice's Law," which criminalizes directly participating in a staged motor vehicle accident. This legislation builds on that important law by extending its provisions to individuals who “mastermind" fraud by directing or coercing others to participate in a staged accident scheme.

 

Online Insurance Verification

Position: Support

Status: Did not pass Senate or Assembly

Summary: This legislation would improve fairness and reduce frustration for New York drivers. The current system for verifying insurance coverage, the Insurance Information and Enforcement System (IIES), is now a quarter of a century old. It relies heavily on manual entry and manual submission of coverage information, which results in delays and errors in the reporting of a driver's insurance status.


Questions? Contact Scott Hobson, AVP of Government Relations​

 


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