Thursday, December 26, 2013

Florida Homeowner's Insurance Reportedly Through the Roof


According to a report released by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners this past month, Florida tops the charts for the nation's highest homeowners insurance premiums. Upon review of the report, Florida's average premium almost doubles the national average. The Insurance Journal made note of this astounding fact:
A national report shows the average premium for most Florida homeowners is $1,933 a year, or nearly twice the national average of $978. (Gary Fineout, Insurance Journal)

The report shows that Florida's insurance rates have been steadily increasing over the past several years, even though the hurricane activity for the state has been decreasing since 2005.

So, why does the average insurance premium continually increase if the hurricane activity is in decline?

The reinsurance for the insurance companies has been increasing over the last several years, which causes insurance companies to increase premiums to compensate for the expense.

Simply put, insurance companies also need to buy insurance to financially protect the company in the event of a total state disaster. The companies that offer insurance to insurance companies are called reinsurance companies, and are largely located in the Cayman Islands. These reinsurance companies also insure insurance companies around the world. So, when the tsunamis hit Japan and Sandy hit the northeast, the reinsurance companies had to pay the insurance companies so that the insurance companies could pay the insureds' claims.

Do you see the cycle?

So, even though Florida has not had any hurricane activity in the past few years, the insurance companies are still increasing rates to compensate for the reinsurance rate increases. Reinsurance rates typically increase whenever there is an influx in natural disasters.

So, is there any light at the end of the tunnel?

Yes. Reinsurance rates are set to drop this year, and one of our homeowners companies has already approved a standard 5% rate DECREASE across the board. Hopefully, all other companies will follow suit and, over time, the Florida homeowners insurance average premium will decrease significantly.

Still have questions? Contact the agency and ask one of our agents. 813-689-8878 or kelly@fearnowins.com

Friday, December 20, 2013

White Chocolate Butterscotch Cookies

 
 
Ingredients
 
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 cups flour
1/2 bag white chocolate chips
1/2 bag butterscotch chips
 
 
 
Instructions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in one egg at a time. Mix in oil, vanilla and almond extract.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Slowly mix into wet ingredients. Once smooth, fold in chips.
  3. Bake at 350 for 7-10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Save a Little Money This Winter

For the past few weeks, we have all enjoyed this cooled weather. The crisp air is perfect for opening windows in the morning and turning off the air conditioner... until about noon when the temperature heats up again. But, eventually, the cold weather will be here. Heaters will be on and electric bills will be up.

What if there were a few ways to actually save money when the cold weather hits? These tips can help you keep your home warm and your wallet full.




Repair Drafty Windows and Doors

Any gap in a home’s structural shell lets cold air inside and allows household heat to escape outdoors. When it comes to air infiltration, a 1/8-inch gap under your front door is equivalent to having a gaping 2.4-inch hole in an exterior wall, according the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Weather-stripping windows and doors is an economical way to eliminate leaks. Caulking a window’s exterior and interior casing helps stop leaks as well.
If you have an older home with single-pane windows, you may wish to consider window replacements. The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that drafty, outdated windows can account for as much as 25 percent of your heating bill. Adding storm windows is another option. When combined with weather-stripping, the EPA reports that a quality storm window can achieve the same energy savings as a new dual-pane window.

Address Other Sources of Air Infiltration

Even something as ordinary as a gap around an outdoor water faucet can break a building envelope’s seal. Armed with a can of expanding foam insulation and silicone caulk, take a tour of your home and exam every electrical, plumbing or gas conduit installed in exterior walls and ceilings. Look for gaps around the chimney and the foundation too. One of the most commonly overlooked sources of air leakage are the cans that hold recessed lighting fixtures. Air-tight trim kits are available that will seal up the leaks.

Inspect Air Ducts

For homes with central heating systems, the branching network of air ducts that delivers heat to your living spaces will likely benefit from sealing and insulation. A study conducted by the EPA found that up to 20 percent of the air that passes through ductwork in the average home is lost to leaky ducts. Because efficient performance depends upon maintaining the careful balance between supply and return channels, however, the EPA recommends leaving duct repairs in the hands of qualified professionals.

Take Advantage of No-Cost Strategies

The sun dips lower on the southern horizon during the winter, and unobstructed south-facing windows can contribute to solar heat gain. Trim back outdoor shrubs and trees to let the sunlight help warm your home. Keep curtains and blinds open during the day and close them up tightly at night to hold in the heat. An open fireplace damper can increase your heating costs by as much as 10 percent. Keep the damper closed when not in use.
Finally, consider scheduling a home energy audit. Professional auditors use specialized equipment like blower doors and thermographic scans to identify a structure’s biggest energy wasters. The report delivered at the end of the assessments offers a list of prioritized improvements that will let you see at a glance which improvements will deliver the biggest bang for your buck.
By taking advantage of these tips, you will be well on your way to saving money on your heating coststhis winter. Calfinder has a wealth of information to help you not only save money on space heating, but contractors available to assist you with your home improvements.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Traveling for Turkey Day


Approximately 33 million people travel over the long Thanksgiving weekend, making it the most traveled holiday of the year (followed by Christmas and New Year’s). But traveling, both by plane and car, over the holidays can be stressful, and potentially dangerous, in the snow and ice. Don’t let holiday traveling give you the winter blues. There are precautions you can take to ensure the safety and general wellness of you and your family during winter traveling.

All winter traveling starts when you leave your home. Be sure to lock all doors and windows, and set your security alarm. You can even set lights on timers and ask a friend or neighbor to collect your mail while you’re away to give your home the lived-in look that may help ward off thieves.

Traveling by Plane
Winter flying can be met with lengthy flight delays, cancellations and missed connections. The most important travel tip is to stay calm, be patient and prepare for the worst possible scenario. How do you do this? Planning ahead can prevent unexpected and/or unwanted event from occurring, such as your desired flight filling up before you book it. Booking your flight far in advance not only ensures you will have a seat, but it also means lower airfare rates and a better chance of flying direct or minimizing connections.

Pack light to avoid hold-ups at the airport. Many airlines are cracking down on their baggage allowances and each bag you bring now costs you a pretty penny. Traveling light reduces your baggage fees and leaves room to pack any presents you receive for the trip back home.

Leave for the airport with plenty of time to spare. Driving through snow can cause unexpected delays and security lines during this peak travel season can grow quite long. Give yourself enough extra time to make up for such occurrences in time to catch your flight. On the other hand, this tactic can leave you with a lot of free time if nothing slows you down on your way. That’s much better than missing your flight! You can eliminate boredom by bringing a book, tablet or music for entertainment.

Remember, the holidays fall during peak flu season and you’ll be trapped in a steel tube with individuals who are possibly sick. Get your flu shot before you travel and wash your hands frequently to reduce the spread of germs. It’s also a good idea to stand up, stretch your legs and walk around every hour to stimulate blood flow and reduce cramping.

Traveling by Car
Winter driving can be met with road closures, increased amount of traffic accidents and slower speeds. Just like on planes, there are steps you can take to smooth over your road trips. Winter driving presents unique hardships, so you should have your car inspected before leaving. Have a mechanic check your car’s vitals, including the brakes, fluid levels, battery, light bulbs and particularly the tire pressure and tread.

With your car ready for the road, you should familiarize yourself with your route and the current weather conditions along the way. Bring a GPS and/or map in case you have to suddenly shift course due to construction, accidents, road closures or avalanches. Packing a safety kit can come in handy during emergency situations. Your kit should include items such as, but not limited to, a cell phone and car charger, jumper cables, ice scraper, tow rope, sand or kitty litter for traction, flashlights with extra batteries, blankets, emergency flares, matches, first aid medical supplies and a portable weather radio. 

You may also want to bring books and/or magazines in case you get stuck in traffic or a snowdrift.
Bring water and protein-rich snacks for every person in the car. The body requires more fuel in the cold and healthy snacks, along with proper hydration, will help keep you alert and focused. You may also want to stop every hour or two to stretch your legs, which can also improve your alertness.
Always remember to wear your seat belt and buckle up children in appropriate child safety seats or booster seats. Holidays are meant to be enjoyed to the fullest, but never get behind the wheel after drinking.

Traveling over the holidays doesn’t have to be stressful. Being prepared will help eliminate many common woes that winter travelers experience. Utilize these tips to stay safe and comfortable, wherever the season takes you. Happy holidays!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Seven Myths about Health Insurance

Taking and maintaining a health insurance policy is a major achievement for many people, but care should be taken before signing on the dotted line.  Despite the fact that there are several insurance firms offering different health insurance packages, about 14% of Americans are still uninsured. While encouraging people to take up health insurance, it is also important to debunk the numerous myths that abound in this sub-sector. Below is an overview of 7 health insurance myths.  

The high number of uninsured has no effect on the insured

As stated above, approximately one out of seven Americans do not have health insurance. Most people who are insured believe that high figure is not their problem, and that they are not affected in any way. The reality is that nobody is immune to the effects that stem from having many uninsured people. The insured often pay for the treatment costs of the uninsured through high health insurance premiums, which hospitals pass on to the beneficiaries in form of charities. Having a large number of uninsured patients also puts a huge strain on emergency rooms of health care facilities.

Individuals have no control over how much they can pay

Most people who have health insurance believe that they are paying high premiums, and they are probably right. Many also believe that there is nothing they can do about these high charges, but they are wrong about this. There are a number of things one can do to enjoy low premiums including watching ones weight, avoiding cigarettes, avoiding high-risk activities and many others. It also helps to weigh all available options before taking a health insurance policy.

Group policies are less expensive

There is also a belief that group health insurance plans are always less expensive than individual plans, an idea that is not totally true. The fact of the matter is that there are many other factors that determine how much a person pays for health insurance. For example, young person in perfect health who does not have dangerous hobbies will probably pay less in an individual plan than he would in a group package.

Health insurance is too expensive

The idea that health insurance is too expensive is a generalization that is not true in its intrinsic sense. While it may be true that health insurance premiums are viewed as high by many people, this does not mean that they are too expensive. With the right kind of market research, one can find affordable plans that offer suitable coverage. Then there are no-claims discounts, premium excesses and other types of discounts. Moreover, it is not easy to put a price to the peace of mind that comes with health insurance.

Medicaid covers nursing home costs for elderly people

People assume too much on Medicare Supplemental Insurance. For example, many believe that Medicaid will pick up the tabs on their nursing home costs in case they need it in their sunset years. The reality is that the plan may only cover up to half of the cost, and only for those who qualify. A good Long Term Care Insurance can easily cover the difference, or else the patient’s family will be forced to cough up the money.

Most uninsured people are unemployed

There is a growing belief that nearly everybody who does not have health insurance is unemployed (or lives in a non- working family). This is a myth, and the reality is that nearly 80% of the uninsured come from working families; the only problem being that they do not qualify for the benefits or cannot afford their portion of the premiums.

Even the uninsured always get health care

Most of the uninsured believe that they can always get medical care when they need it, but this is a false belief. Some of them do not get the care they need, and even those who succeed in getting it have to grapple with lengthy delays. Besides, there are serious economic consequences of seeking treatment without health insurance. This is why not having health insurance has been identified as one of the leading causes of personal bankruptcy.

It is clear that the health insurance industry is still shrouded in numerous myths. This is why families are advised to consult widely before getting insured. If you need more information, you can give us a call at 813-689-8878.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why Should You Purchase Annuities?


Annuities can serve many useful purposes for retirement. If you're thinking of purchasing an annuity, here are some things to consider.

If you need income right away, an immediate annuity can be used to:
    Help protect you against outliving your assets - Social security will pay retirement income for as long as you live, as do defined-benefit pension plans - the only other source of income available that continues indefinitely is an immediate annuity. 
   Help protect your assets from creditors - Generally creditors can only access payments from an immediate annuity as they’re made, since the money you gave the insurance company now belongs to the company.

If you’re saving money for the future, a deferred annuity can be used to:•   Help you meet your retirement income goals - Plans such as a 401(k) are an important part of planning for your retirement; however, contributions to these plans and to IRAs are limited. They also, may not produce all of the retirement income you need. This is especially true if you’ve started saving for retirement late or had contributions interrupted due to job changes. If you do not have a 401(k) keep in mind your social security benefit may provide less than you need to retire, another reason that a deferred annuity could come in handy after retirement.
   Help you diversify your investment portfolio - Investment experts routinely advise their clients that to get the best return for a given level of risk, you should diversify your investments. Fixed annuities, in particular, are unique because they offer an investment that is guaranteed not to decrease and will actually increase at a specified interest rate (and, often, potentially more).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Safety Tips



Though adult Halloween-lovers embrace spooky evenings, children see the holiday simply as a time for fun and often remain as carefree as on any other day. But the truth is that Halloween involves more dangers than your typical day. Parents with young children may want to take certain precautions to ensure their safety as they dart around the neighborhood at night, knocking on strangers’ doors.


Safety At Home
A favorite Halloween pastime, for both children and adults, is carving pumpkins. However, some standard carving tools have sharp edges that can injure children who aren’t yet coordinated enough to handle them. For younger children, paint pictures on pumpkins rather than carving them. If your child really wants that carved look, he or she can draw their picture with a marker and an adult can carve it out.
Lighting your carved pumpkin with an electric candle or flashlight is much safer than using an open flame. If you do use candles anywhere in your home, never leave them unattended and keep the flame away from curtains, d├ęcor and other flammable objects.
For optimal home safety, clear obstacles away for doorways, walkways, stairs and common areas where sugar-buzzed children may run amok. Your home should be well-lit, both inside and out, and pets should be restrained to prevent them from coming in contact with fire or eating candy.

Selecting a Costume
Costumes provide your children with a way to express their interests and personalities. Unfortunately, they can also lead to injuries if not properly chosen. All costumes should fit snugly as directed. Long sleeves, skirts or capes can cause trips and falls. Any accessories or costume weapons should be blunt and/or soft. Masks often limit eyesight, so you may want to consider makeup instead. Many costumes have tags that signify flame resistance and, much as you’d expect, these are the safest for your children to wear as they repeatedly walk or run past flame-lit jack-o-lanterns. As an extra precaution, you may want to fasten reflective tape to your child’s trick-or-treat bag or bucket to alert neighborhood drivers.

Safety While Trick-or-Treating
The most important way to keep your children safe as they roam the neighborhood is to always accompany them or, if you are otherwise busy, ask a trusted neighbor, friend or family member to accompany them. The supervising adult should ensure that children remain on the sidewalks of well-lit streets. Children should avoid cutting across yards or alleys, and should only cross streets at designated crosswalks.
Dark houses signify either that no one is home or that the residents do not wish to participate in the holiday fun. Only approach well-lit and/or decorated homes. Children should carry a flashlight or glow stick, particularly if they are wearing a dark-colored costume, for added visibility.
If your older children wish to go trick-or-treating alone and you, as a parent, feel comfortable allowing that, ensure that they remain in a group. Agree on a curfew and inform them of any areas you would like them to avoid visiting. At least one person in the group should carry a cell phone.

When All Is Said and Done
When your child returns home with a candy stash, check the treats for evidence of tampering. Any candy that is unwrapped or spoiled should be thrown away immediately. Factory-wrapped candy is safe for your children to consume (in small portions), but avoid letting them eat homemade treats from strangers.
So long as you maintain an awareness of possible dangers, and teach these precautions to your children, Halloween can be a fun-filled holiday to remember and look forward to for years to come.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What's So Great About Worker's Comp?

A good portion of our business over the last few weeks has been providing Workers Comp coverage to various industries in our area. With all of the increased attention on this aspect of our business, I have realized that most people are not aware of the full range of benefits offered through Workers Comp insurance.

Workers Comp is not only a necessary coverage, but it is a beneficial coverage to offer your employees. I have done a lot of research on the subject, and I have found that the Insurance Information Institute has published the most comprehensive article featuring the benefits and coverage provided by a Workers Comp insurance policy.


Workers Compensation Insurance

WHAT IS WORKERS COMPENSATION INSURANCE?

 Employers are legally obligated to take reasonable care to assure that their workplaces are safe. Nevertheless, accidents happen. When they do, workers compensation insurance provides coverage.

Workers compensation insurance serves two purposes: It assures that injured workers get medical care and compensation for a portion of the income they lose while they are unable to return to work and it usually protects employers from lawsuits by workers injured while working.

Workers receive benefits regardless of who was at fault in the accident. If a worker is killed while working, workers comp (as it is often abbreviated) provides death benefits for the worker’s dependents.

EACH STATE IS DIFFERENT

Workers compensation systems are established by statutes in each state. State laws and court decisions control the program in that state and no two states have exactly the same laws and regulations.

States determine such features as the amount of benefits to which an employee is entitled, what impairments and injuries are covered, how impairments are to be evaluated and how medical care is to be delivered. In addition, states dictate whether workers compensation insurance is provided by state-run agencies and by private insurance companies or by the state alone. States also establish how claims are to be handled, how disputes are resolved and they may devise strategies, such as limits on chiropractic care, to control costs.

To learn about the requirements where you live, visit your state’s workers compensation department Web site.

If your business expands to another state, you may have to deal with very different rules in the new state. The discussion here covers the general features of workers compensation programs.

WHAT INJURIES ARE COVERED?

Injuries employees sustain on the workplace premises or anywhere else while the employee is acting in the “course and scope” of employment are covered if their employer has workers comp insurance. For example, the leading cause of workers comp death claims is traffic accidents that occur when the employee is in a vehicle for work purposes, whether the trip is made in the company’s car or the employee’s own vehicle. Accidents driving to and from work are not covered.

In addition to injuries from accidents, workers comp covers injuries employees may sustain from other events that may occur while they are working, including workplace violence, terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

Workers comp insurance also covers certain illnesses and occupational diseases (defined in the state statutes) contracted as a result of employment. For example, employees who work with toxic chemicals can be made ill by exposure to the chemicals.

WHAT TREATMENT DO INJURED WORKERS RECEIVE?

Injured workers receive all medically necessary and appropriate treatment. With medical costs soaring, many states have adopted measures designed to rein in expenditures. These include utilization management guidelines, which describe acceptable treatment protocols and diagnostic tests for specific injuries.

WHAT BENEFITS DO INJURED WORKERS RECEIVE?

Income replacement benefits are based on whether the disability is total or partial and whether it is permanent or temporary. Impairment is generally defined as a reduction in earnings capacity, sometimes using the American Medical Association’s criteria.
Most states require that benefits be paid for the duration of the disability, but some specify a maximum number of weeks, particularly for temporary disabilities. The benefit amount is a percentage of the worker’s weekly wage (actual or state average).

DO I HAVE TO BUY WORKERS COMPENSATION INSURANCE?

In most states sole proprietors and partnerships aren’t required to purchase workers compensation unless and until they have employees who aren’t owners. Most states will allow sole proprietors and partners to cover themselves for workers comp if they choose to. Some states don’t require employees to be covered if they are paid solely on commission.

Employees are generally defined as people performing services at the direction of the employer, for hire, including minors and workers who are not citizens.

Many states exempt employers with only a few employees from mandatory coverage laws. The threshold number of employees that triggers mandatory insurance is either three, four or five, depending on the state. Texas is the only state in which workers comp insurance is truly optional.

In some states, businessowners' immediate family members—parents, spouse and children—who work for the firm may not have to be counted as employees for purposes of determining whether you must have workers comp insurance. These exceptions usually do not apply to other family members, such as sisters, brothers or in-laws.

Under some laws, independent contractors are not considered to be your employees. However, for the purpose of workers comp insurance, most states will treat an uninsured contractor or subcontractor or employees of an uninsured subcontractor as your employee—meaning you may be liable if he or she is injured while working for you. To avoid any unintended liability, larger companies often require any contractors or subcontractors doing work for them to provide proof they have workers comp insurance.

Regardless of whether insurance is required and regardless of how few employees you have, if an employee protected by the state statute is injured or killed in the course of working for you, you may be legally liable. One claim for a serious employee injury could bankrupt many small businesses. Insurance, through the payment of premiums for workers comp coverage, provides a predictable cost for handling this risk.

More information on this subject can be found by reading the full article published by the Insurance Information Institute.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

De-stress Your Home for the Holidays

The holiday season can become pretty hectic pretty quickly. Between in-laws visiting, kid's school Christmas pageants, and more cooking than any one person should do, it is easy to let the stress of the season ruin your holiday joy. I found this article a couple days ago and thought I would share. After implementing a couple of the tips in my own house, my downtime between craziness has become exactly that: down time. Help yourself by de-stressing your home so that your down time can be spent relaxing and not planning for your next event.


DE-STRESS YOUR HOME

Medium_medium_bnzen-2

WHY DO THIS?

Modern life is high-tech, fast-paced and stressful. It’s a jungle out there! Turning your home into a sanctuary from the always on, always-connected world we live in is not only good for your mind, it’s good for your health! Make your home a relaxation zone with these design fixes.
Difficulty: 
 
 
Time: 15 minutes

how to:

  1. 1
    Let in light. Sunlight is nature’s stress-buster, because it positively impacts both physical and mental health. Lift the blinds and lift your mood. If you’re lacking in the natural light department, mirrors can be used to brighten up a room, instead.
  2. 2
    Dim down at night. While light boosts energy levels, darkness can soothe the soul, so balancing the two is key. In the evening, keep certain spaces (such as your bedroom) low-key by reducing overhead lighting and using a candle or two. The low light will help transition your system to a relaxed state and prepare you for sleep.
  3. 3
    Frame your loved ones. Remember that fun vacation with those amazing people? You should. Every day. Reliving happy memories breeds an upbeat outlook and framed photos will do the trick. Surround yourself with snapshots of friends, family, places and pets for a daily jolt of positivity.
  4. 4
    Simplify. Clutter is the enemy of calm. Pick one especially disorderly space in your home (thekitchencloset or living room are three good options) and spend ten minutes sorting your clutter into three piles: keep, discard and relocate. Eliminate the “discard” pile and move the “relocate” items to their proper places in the house.
  5. 5
    Add nature. Plants are a great way to make any room feel tranquil and peaceful. Whether you make a statement with a single staghorn fern or scatter jars of wildflowers throughout your home, you can’t go wrong. In addition to the high-traffic display spots, we recommend placing plants in obscure places (like the kitchen, home office or your bathrooms) to keep the natural vibe alive through and through.
  6. 6
    Power down. The electronics in our lives can drain more than electricity. Surrounding ourselves with screens – computers, TVs, tablets – can take a toll on our sleep habits, too. Hide them if you can, at least an hour or so before bed. The blue light emitted from most electronics actually affects your REM cycle, so you don’t sleep as well. And nothing knocks your stress levels up a notch like a poor night’s sleep!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Flood Reform Set to Drown Homeowners, Part 2

In a continuation of the previous post, I would like to discuss some more specific changes to occur as a result of the new flood reform. While these are not all of the caveats included in the NFIP reform, they are the most relevant to the general public.
The deadline for the new reform and subsequent premium increases is October 1, 2013. Any policy that was written or renews after October 1, 2013 will face the new rate changes. Any policy was written or renews before October 1, 2013 will not face any increased rates until the next renewal.

Generally speaking, the NFIP is implementing a 10% premium increase across the board. In very special circumstances, some premiums will increase 25% as of Oct. 1, 2013. These special cases included, but are not exclusive to:

  • non-primary/non-principal residences
  • Severe Repetitive Loss (SRL) properties
  • Properties that have incurred flood-related damages in which the cumulative amount of the NFIP claim payments exceeded the fair market value of the property (as a subset of SRL properties)
  • Business Properties
For people who carry Preferred Risk Policies (PRP), a general 10% premium increase will be issued on Oct. 1, 2013. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Fearnow Insurance immediately. We have trained and licensed professionals ready to answer all of your questions!

Friday, September 13, 2013

New Flood Reform Set to Drown Homeowners, Part One



In the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, Congress set a course to revamp the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in order to better protect homeowners in flood zones. The new Biggert-Waters Act aims to bridge the financial gap between the NFIP fund and the actual amount that would be paid-out after another Katrina or Sandy-sized hurricane.

However, the attempt to throw a lifeline to the NFIP might very well leave homeowners drowning in debt.

That being said, the NFIP does need to be reconstructed. The past few disasters have left the bank not only depleted, but fully in debt. According to the Tampa Tribune, the bailouts for the NFIP have been recurring and extensive:
The program has required more than $24 billion in bailouts since being established in 1968, with billions of dollars in additional costs from Hurricane Sandy still being tallied. Most of the losses came because of subsidized insurance rates and losses from repeat claims on homes and businesses flooded every few years.
The price to pay for the reconstruction could bankrupt current homeowners in flood zones. Congress is discussing starting with a blanket 25% increase in premium, and then moving up from there. This plan is not in effect and is currently still being discussed in congress.

We are currently undergoing research and training to learn more about this new change and how it will affect homeowners. The next blog segment will be posted on Monday afternoon. We will have more information available at that time.

As always, if you have any questions about your current coverage, please feel free to contact our agency at 813-689-8878 or info@fearnowins.com.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Age of New Technology

A few days ago, I was researching the insurance industry in Florida and any major changes that have recently occurred. In the midst of my internet searching, I came across this really interesting article that predicts the implementation of self-driving cars by the year 2020. While this article does not address the insurance aspect of self-driving cars, the subject matter is just too interesting to not share with my readers.

This article is published in the Insurance Journal. All rights are reserved to the author and publisher. I am simply passing along the information.




Cars that drive themselves could be on U.S. roads by the end of this decade. But don’t take your foot off the pedal just yet.
“This is not a Star Wars technology. This is a technology that’s becoming more and more reliable,” Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said earlier this year at the Detroit auto show.

Automakers, universities and others are at various stages in the development of autonomous cars. Google is testing some in California. General Motors recently announced that its “Super Cruise” system, which uses radar and cameras to steer and stop a car, could be on Cadillacs by the end of this decade. And Nissan has boldly promised that it will have an autonomous driving system by 2020.
But there are still a host of issues to work through before there’s a driverless car in every driveway. State laws requiring a licensed driver at the wheel will have to change. Insurers will have to determine who’s at fault if a self-driving car crashes. Highways will need to accommodate cars with and without drivers. And auto companies will need to ensure that cars’ on-board computers can’t be hacked.
In a recent report, consulting company Navigant Research estimated it will be at least 2035 before a majority of vehicles sold worldwide will be able to drive themselves. Navigant predicts that technology will come in bits and pieces – first self-parking cars, then systems to help drivers navigate traffic jams, then cars that can cruise by themselves on a highway – and will take some time to migrate from luxury cars to more mainstream brands.
“The role of the driver of a vehicle will evolve to be more like that of a pilot in an aircraft,” the company said in its report.
Autonomous cars are moving from pipe dream to reality thanks to rapid advances in technology. Lane-departure warning systems, for example, first appeared a decade ago. They typically used one camera, mounted on the windshield, to warn drivers if they swerved out of a lane. Newer systems are far more complex. Now, multiple cameras and radars can detect pedestrians and avoid them by telling the car to apply the brakes. Some cameras can even read street signs. And some lane-departure systems not only warn the driver with a beep or a buzz but also gently nudge the steering wheel to make sure the car stays in the middle of its lane.
The story is similar with adaptive cruise control, which first appeared in the mid-1990s. Back then, it could maintain a safe distance from a car directly in front of it at highway speeds. Now, more advanced adaptive cruise control systems can monitor cars in other lanes, work in slower, stop-and-go traffic and even apply the brakes and halt the car.
Satellite-based navigation systems have also become far more accurate in the last decade, which is key to developing self-driving cars. Some systems can already detect traffic jams and suggest alternate routes. Navigant predicts future systems will be able to give turn-by-turn directions to the car instead of the driver.
Technology isn’t perfect. Amnon Shashua, the co-founder of Mobileye, a Dutch company that writes software for automotive cameras, says there are still some situations in which humans outperform computers. At a four-way stop, for example, a driver can crane his neck, scan for traffic in any direction and quickly determine the speed of any oncoming vehicles. So far, cars can’t mimic that, Shashua said.
But even as the research and development continues, some autonomous cars are already being tested. Last year, British auto supplier and engineering firm Ricardo successfully led an autonomous vehicle demonstration near Barcelona, Spain. One vehicle led four others – three Volvo cars and a truck – that drove themselves for more than 120 miles. The cars stayed 20 feet from each other and traveled at 53 miles per hour.
Ricardo’s U.S. President Tom Apostolos says the company believes such platoons will be among the first applications of self-driving technology. A farmer could drive a lead vehicle and run four self-driving combines behind, for example, or a logging company could run a convoy of trucks in a remote area.
“I think it will be in a place where you have a safer, more controlled environment,” he said.
Highway platooning could follow, but that is fraught with questions. Roy Goudy, a senior principal engineer at Nissan’s North American technical center, said autonomous cars can react much more quickly to potential hazards than cars being driven by people, so it would be difficult to have both on the road at the same time.
“What are the rules in that environment, and what do we do to enforce those rules?” Goudy said.
Good question. So far, the rules have yet to be established. Only three states – Nevada, Florida and California – and the District of Columbia have authorized testing of automated cars on their roads. Other states, including Michigan, could pass laws soon. The federal government hasn’t said when it might issue any regulations.
Despite all the uncertainties surrounding autonomous cars, many agree on their benefits. David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, says self-driving cars could potentially save thousands of lives, since human error is currently a factor in as many as 90 percent of traffic deaths. Driverless cars could bring order to clogged highways, reduce emissions by shortening travel times, and give more independence to the elderly and the disabled.