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Jul 01
Rerun: Seeing Fireworks


An article ​posted on today features the headline Firework injuries have skyrocketed since 2012. With that report in mind, along with the annual Independence Day celebration around the corner, I thought it might be a good time to rerun a blog post I made on July 5, 2012. I hope you enjoy and celebrate the holiday safely. -- TD

It's the day after the Fourth of July, but that doesn't mean the celebrations are over. Really, having the holiday on a Wednesday just enables the party to last through the weekend. Independence Day means all the traditional American rituals -- baseball, hot dogs, apple pie ... and fireworks.

Fireworks displays are synonymous with summer here in the U.S. of A. I can't imagine a summer without them. When handled by qualified professionals, fireworks can make you laugh or just gape in amazement at the spectacle unfolding in the skies.

Unfortunately, lots of people try to have their own homegrown fireworks displays, and the results can be as bad as it gets. According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, during the month surrounding July 4, an average of 200 people will visit emergency rooms every day due to incidents involving fireworks. Nearly half of those injuries are to fingers and hands, more than half are burns, and two-thirds will be to the male of the species (who apparently don't have enough ways to maim or kill themselves.) In 2011, four deaths were related to the use of fireworks.

Medical insurance obviously becomes involved in accidents like these (sidenote: 45 percent of injuries occur to the "young and healthy" people under age 25 who supposedly don't need health insurance.) However, the liability coverage in a homeowners insurance policy may come into play if someone who is just watching the fireworks gets hurt. From a safety and insurance standpoint, it makes sense to take great care with these explosives.

So, if you feel you must ignore New York law and drive across the state line to buy fireworks, please follow these recommendations from the CPSC so that you will retain all 10 fingers:

  • Keep them away from kids. We tell kids not to play with matches for a reason.
  • Do not try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not fully ignited. The main event could occur just as you do.
  • Keep a water source on hand (hose, bucket filled with water) in case things go wrong.
  • Light them one at a time and stand back from them.
  • Don't shoot them off in metal or glass containers (can you say, "shrapnel"?)

And a few last pieces of advice that should go without saying, but I'll say them anyway:

  • Don't point them at people before shooting them off. Your aim may be better than you think.
  • Drinking alcoholic beverages and shooting off fireworks is a bad idea on more levels than I have to time to count. If you've been pounding beers, watch the display from a safe distance. On TV, for instance.

And have a fun and safe summer.
Jul 01
State Fund Launches Subcontractor Compliance Monitoring Tool

NYSIF​​                © NYSIF. All rights reserved

The New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF) has introduced a new tool to make it easier for their policyholders to monitor their subcontractors' compliance with Workers' Compensation coverage requirements. Per an email we received from NYSIF on June 27:

Beginning Wednesday (June 29), NYSIF workers’ compensation policyholders will have a new way of monitoring subcontractor's compliance with the workers' comp law, potentially saving them unexpected costs due to uninsured subs. Using their online account​, policyholders can enter the FEIN (Federal Employer Identification Number) of a sub, and NYSIF will display if they have current workers' compensation insurance. If the sub has current coverage, policyholders can add them to their monitoring list, and they will be notified when there is a change in compliance status. Employers will remain on their monitoring list until or unless they remove them.​​

Jul 01
Who’s Hiding in Your Agency?

​What have you done lately to grow your team members?

The rest of America seems to have caught up with an issue we've had for a while - the need for more fantastic team members in our agencies. Even industry newbies with great attitudes that we could train would be welcome additions. We're all working on that (that'll be another post). But many agencies are falling short on something else they can control right now. That's empowering, training, and growing within.

Yes, the need for CE naturally keeps at least our licensed staffers growing in some way every year. But are you growing operational skills? Are you building a track for future leaders? Are you inspiring your current team to stick around? Are you sure you've uncovered the sleeping giants within?

I have a lot of informal chats, and I've learned that often there is someone in a business who could be a knock-it-out-of-the-park all-star, with interest in growing, who may not be obvious to the leadership. There are many reasons for that, and it's not necessarily the leader's fault. One solution - ask. Have a conversation with your team. Send a link to our Leadership Academy around and ask if anyone is interested in a conversation about it. You don't need to commit to sending them today, but when you understand how your team is feeling, you can set them on a path.

Both agency principals and team members have shared how meaningful our Leadership Academy has been. Hear what they have said here​​. We've graduated 2 classes now, and our next one starts in a few weeks. Do you have a rising star, undiscovered future leader, or could you personally benefit from refining your communication skills? This may be the perfect time.

Either way, start looking at your team members and having growth conversations. PS: It's not always the more vocal ones who will shine.

Learn about the Leadership Academy.
Jun 30
DFS Fines an Insurance Producer for Cybersecurity Violations ... But Not One Like You

hammer-g3028acd85_640.jpg​In the five and a half years since the New York State Department of Financial Services implemented its Cybersecurity Requirements For Financial Services Companies​ regulation, I had yet to hear of an insurance producer being penalized for violations. Until this week. 

As is my habit, I checked the department's website first thing Monday morning and found a news release they had issued last Friday, June 24. The release announced a $5 million penalty against an insurance producer for violations of the regulation. 

I should mention that this wasn't any ordinary insurance producer. It was Carnival Cruise Line, the high-profile provider of ocean cruises whose annual revenue shrank to $3.5 billion in the 12 months ending in February 2022. 

Apparently, Carnival had New York producer licenses to sell life insurance, accident and health insurance, and variable life/variable annuities insurance. I say "had" because the department's news release reported that the company had surrendered its licenses.

According to the news release, Carnival suffered four cybersecurity events 2019 and 2021, including two ransomware attacks. "These Cybersecurity Events involved the unauthorized access of the companies’ information systems, leading to the exposure of customers’ sensitive, personal data," the statement said.

DFS found that the company had violated five sections of the regulation:

  • 500.12, which required them to implement multi-factor authentication
  • 500.2, which required them to include in their cybersecurity program a plan to meet reporting obligations to DFS
  • 500.17(a), which required them to report a significant cybersecurity event to DFS within 72 hours of determining that it had occurred (the first event was not reported within that timeframe)
  • 500.14​, which required them to implement policies and procedures designed to detect unauthorized access or use of non-public information
  • 500.17(b), which required them to annually submit an accurate certification of compliance with the regulation The department determined that (the certifications filed for calendar years 2018 through 2018 were "improper" because of the missing safeguards)

Insurance agencies and brokerages that qualify for the regulation's limited exemption​ are exempt from the multi-factor authentication and system monitoring requirements. However, the event reporting and certification of compliance requirements apply to all individual and entities who have New York insurance licenses. Any agency that is not complying with those requirements could also face DFS penalties, though likely not to the tune of $5 million.

The takeaway: DFS is enforcing this regulation. To date, the enforcement actions they've publicized have been against large entities - lenders, insurance carriers, and now  a multi-billion dollar travel business. New York licensed agents and brokers should not assume that big targets are the only targets. All "covered entities" (those with New York insurance or financial services licenses or banking charters) are expected to comply with requirements that apply to them. We encourage you to take the obligations seriously.

For more information on how your agency or brokerage can comply with the regulation:

Jun 30
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson on Insurance
Ketanji Brown Jackson at Loeb House (Harvard University, 2020) 

Ketanji Brown Jackson​
Photo by Rose Lincoln, Harvard University.
Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International​ license.

Ketanji Brown Jackson today took the oaths of office to become the newest associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. She succeeds Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, for whom she once served as a clerk.

I always find it interesting, when a Supreme Court justice enters or exits (Scalia, Ginsburg) the stage, to investigate how they have ruled on cases that might be of concern to insurance carriers, agents or brokers. Presidents tend to pluck jurists from the federal courts when they nominate Supreme Court justices. Insurance, however, is regulated primarily at the state government level. For that reason, I don't often find a lot when looking for insurance cases.

Associate Justice Jackson served on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia from 2013 until 2021, when President Biden elevated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit with the Senate's consent in 2021. In searching her record for insurance cases, I found several involving Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement disputes involving health care providers, and a few arguments over Social Security disability and federal employee benefits. However, I did find two opinions from her years on the circuit court that are relevant to the property-casualty insurance industry. 

In Sickle v. Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, delivered on Christmas Eve 2013, two former subcontractors of a defense contractor claimed that the contractor illegally retaliated against them because one of them sought workers' compensation benefits under the Defense Base Act for an on-the-job back injury. The contractor argued that procedures under federal law did not permit their lawsuit, as the Defense Base Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act were their exclusive remedies. Jackson ruled in the contractor's favor:

“The well-established doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies provides 'that no one is entitled to judicial relief for a supposed or threatened injury until the prescribed administrative remedy has been exhausted.' …

There is no doubt that the (Department of Labor) has established a comprehensive administrative procedure for DBA/LHWCA discrimination and retaliation claims that enables the agency to exercise its expertise and discretion in resolving those claims, while also allowing for eventual federal court review. … If Plaintiffs had taken advantage of the process that the applicable regulations afford, a DOL district director would have been required to investigate their retaliation complaints and to make a recommendation as to the appropriate disposition, including employer penalties and employee remedies. … This Court sees no reason to allow Plaintiffs to sidestep this process, particularly where the regulations broadly empower the DOL to require reinstatement and back pay and to 'make such restitution as is indicated by the circumstances of the case,' … which is in large part what Plaintiffs seek in this action. …

The bottom line is that, as federal courts across the country have found, the DBA expressly and impliedly preempts other remedies state law affords to similarly-situated plaintiffs."

In Blackstone v. Brink the following year, Jackson was asked to decide whether a settlement agreement allegedly accepted by the estate of an individual who was killed by multiple cars while crossing a street in northwest Washington, D.C. was enforceable. State Farm, the insurer for one of the drivers, offered policy limits in settlement in exchange for the estate waiving its rights to sue. The dispute was over whether the estate's attorney actually accepted State Farm's proposed agreement. She found that the documentation of the conversations between the attorney and the State Farm representative were evidence that an oral contract existed, and therefore the settlement agreement was enforceable:

“… (T)his Court concludes that Defendant Brink has met his burden of demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence that, on or about September 10, 2013, Plaintiffs' counsel and State Farm representative Oltchick orally agreed to the material terms of a settlement agreement and likewise intended to be bound by that arrangement. Accordingly, as set forth in the separate order accompanying this opinion, Defendant Brink's motion to enforce the settlement agreement between the parties is GRANTED."

In Justice Jackson's limited insurance jurisprudence, it was insurance carriers two, claimants zero. A property-casualty insurance dispute may never reach the high court during her tenure. If one does, these two opinions give faint clues as to how she might rule.

Jun 29
Industry Roundup: ​Legal Clashes Await U.S. Companies Covering Workers' Abortion Costs; Adapting to Changing Policyholder Behaviors & Expectations; Cyber Pirates Prowling Ship Controls Threaten Another Big Shock; Health Insurance Premiums Poised to Jump

Legal Clashes Await U.S. Companies Covering Workers' Abortion Costs

A growing number of large U.S. companies have said they will cover travel costs for employees who must leave their home states to get abortions, but these new policies could expose businesses to lawsuits and even potential criminal liability, legal experts said.


Adapting to Changing Policyholder Behaviors & Expectations

There is a need to evolve data analytics alongside changing customer behaviors and expectations.


How Cannabis Legalization in NY is Affecting Landlords One Year Later

Landlords should first check with their insurers before renting to determine whether any loss arising from marijuana use by a tenant must be excluded.


Cyber Pirates Prowling Ship Controls Threaten Another Big Shock

There's an emerging threat to global trade: cyber piracy able to penetrate on-board technology that's replacing old ways of steering, propulsion, navigation and other key operations.


AM Best Downgrades Members of NLC Insurance Companies Pool

AM Best has downgraded the Financial Strength Rating to B++ (Good) from A- (Excellent) and the Long-Term Issuer Credit Ratings to “bbb+" (Good) from “a-" (Excellent) of the insurers that operate under an intercompany pooling agreement and are collectively referred to as NLC Insurance Companies Pool (NLC), headquartered in Norwich, Conn.


Health Insurance Premiums Poised to Jump Next Year for 13M People

Those with health insurance through the government's Health Insurance Marketplace can expect to pay more next year.


Wall Street Banks Quietly Test Cyber Defenses at Treasury's Direction

With global tensions rising over Ukraine, the US financial sector's cutthroat competitiveness is giving way to collaboration in the belief that a cyberattack against even a small group of minor banks – or a third-party service provider – could endanger everyone in a highly connected system.


G-7 Weighs Russia Oil-Price Cap Via Insurance, Shipping Ban

The Group of Seven nations is discussing a price cap on Russian oil that would work by imposing restrictions on insurance and shipping.


Why Insurance Apps Don't Replace Agents, but Make Them Look Better

JD Power's latest survey showed that increasingly snazzier web and mobile app offerings don't offset high insurance rates when it comes to customer happiness.


The Big 'I' and Insurance Business America Team up for Special Report

Insurance Business America (IBA) has teamed up with the Big “I" to launch the Rising Stars Special Report 2022, which identifies and celebrates young insurance professionals who are committed to their insurance career with a clear passion for the industry and have gone the extra mile to distinguish themselves among their contemporaries. 

Jun 29
Big I New York and IMS

22-IMS-Gen Social Posts V2_Member Adavantage (1200x630).png

Independent Market Solutions (IMS) was established in 2007 with the goal of creating greater market access for member agents. In 2019, Big I New York made the investment to be a part of IMS and, since that time, we have grown market availability in New York to include 11 participating carriers that offer personal, commercial, and various specialty lines. 

The purpose of IMS is to provide member agents access to quality insurance markets and alternatives that may be otherwise unavailable. IMS creates marketplace leverage through its negotiated contracts, which can be particularly helpful for smaller or rural agents.  

Big I New York membership allows your agency to sign-up for the program and gain carrier appointments as an IMS sub-producer at no additional cost. Agencies are paid competitive commissions, enjoy 100 percent ownership of expirations, and can participate in earned contingencies. Additionally, several IMS markets feature the opportunity to “graduate" to a direct appointment once certain production goals are met – again, at no additional cost to your agency.   ​

Ultimately, our mission is to add to the success and prosperity of independent agencies by providing viable market access through IMS. New York is a proud owner of IMS, along with our association colleagues in other states. To learn more about the carriers IMS could help connect you with, click here

Jun 24
VIDEO: N.Y. Changes - Peer-To-Peer Car Sharing

​A new state law has made peer-to-peer car sharing programs, such as those offered by Turo, available in New York State. Last week, the state Department of Financial Services published several changes to insurance regulations to implement the law. Watch this two-minute video to learn what they mean to your clients and you.

Music by AudioCoffee from Pixabay

Download a PDF file of the slides


Jun 23
Big I New York Earns Diamond Elite Insurance Education Honors from IIABA

By Sue Keegan, Education Administrator


We are excited to announce that Big I New York has earned a Diamond Elite 2022 Excellence in Insurance Education award from IIABA!

The criteria for this award includes creation of new programs, ways to deliver education in our "new normal," innovation, and marketing.    

We are honored to continue to deliver you award-winning education opportunities!

Love, your awesome education team,
Jim, Sue, Tim, Lisa and Kim

Jun 23
Industry Roundup: Pandemic Takes Toll on Mental and Physical Wellbeing, Leading to More Online Insurance Purchases; Price of Homeowners Insurance Jumps 34%; U.S. Commercial Auto Q1 Premiums Make Significant Jump Over 5 Years

Pandemic Takes Toll on Mental and Physical Wellbeing, Leading to More Online Insurance Purchases

A Swiss Re Institute survey of 11,000 consumers worldwide conducted two years into the COVID-19 pandemic found that the pandemic led to an increase in online insurance purchases as well as a greater willingness to share personal health data, particularly among the younger generation.


State Farm Hit by Summary Judgement Reversal

A court order which granted summary judgment to State Farm over a breach of policy case has been reversed.


Price of Homeowners Insurance Jumps 34%

QuoteWizard® released their annual "State of Home Insurance" report and found that the average price of home insurance has increased by as much as 34% in some states since 2021.


NY Botanical Garden can go Forward with COVID Business Interruption Suit

A New York state appeals court is allowing the New York Botanical Garden to go forward with a business-interruption loss suit against an insurer that refused to pay for losses due to COVID-19 shutdowns.


U.S. Commercial Auto Q1 Premiums Make Significant Jump Over 5 Years

According to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis, direct premiums written for the liability business line by U.S. commercial auto insurers in the first quarter were significantly higher than in the same period in 2018.


New York's High Court Rejects Trump Bid to Skip Testifying in AG's Civil Suit

New York's highest court on Tuesday rejected former President Donald Trump's last-ditch effort to avoid testifying in the state attorney general's civil investigation into his business practices, clearing the way for his deposition next month.


Lightning Caused $1.3 Billion in U.S. Homeowners Claim Payouts in 2021

According to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple I), more than $1 billion in lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claims were paid out to 60,000-plus policyholders in 2021.


Former NY Insurance Regulator Joins Lemonade

Lemonade has hired New York's former top insurance regulator, Scott Fisher, to help lead its legal team.


New York City and Miami Have Most Homes at Risk of Storm Surge Damage

CoreLogic risk modeling data shows that nearly 7.8 million homes with more than $2.3 trillion in combined reconstruction cost value (RCV) are at risk of hurricane-related damages.


Hardened U.S. Cyber Insurance Market Here to Stay

According to an AM Best report, a 16% increase in claims and only a modest reduction in the loss ratio despite significant rate increases highlights the segment's ongoing challenges.

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