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Bob Lancaster Insurance's mission statement is the core of our culture. Our customers always come first, and we strive to provide them with the products and service that best respond to their needs. Building trust and fostering loyal, long-lasting relationships are the essence of who we are and fundamental parts of our company values.
Putting our mission statement to work
Our employees work hard to connect with our customers on a very real and personal level. Find out what Bob Lancaster’s mission means to them and how they carry it out every day.
Bob Lancaster Insurance, serving Florida's insurance needs since 1964. Contact us today at 321-725-1620 - see what we can do for YOU and YOUR BUSINESS!
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Nine in 10 boomer children of senior drivers think it is important to have driving conversations with their aging parents, but few are taking action - thus, not addressing potential safety risks on the roads. Earlier and more frequent conversations about senior driving are essential. If people take away one lesson from this study, it is to have this conversation with your loved ones – and have it soon.
The survey of more than 1,000 boomer children of senior drivers indicates that they are more concerned about their aging parents' driving (59 percent) than they are about family members driving under the influence (43 percent).
Boomer children cite the following as top concerns associated with their senior parents' driving:
- Poor eyesight: 47 percent
- Drives too slow: 38 percent
- Poor hearing: 30 percent
- Drives distracted: 25 percent
- 46 percent think their parents will be angry or hurt
- 31 percent think their parents will say it is too hard to find other modes of transportation
- 22 percent think their parents will be more determined to keep driving
Boomers' concerns about senior driving are valid, with 17 percent of all U.S. traffic fatalities happening to older individuals, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In 2011, 5,401 people aged 65 and older were killed and 185,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes.
Aging is an inevitable occurrence that has several implications. It's important that we recognize that age can bring changes that impact one's driving abilities. Each individual situation is unique, which is why we encourage boomer children to talk openly with their parents about driving.
Here are some tips for talking to senior loved ones about driving:
- Take a ride with your parents and observe their driving. Watch their awareness of their driving environment. Do they have slow reaction times? Are there dents, close calls, tickets or warnings?
- Discuss the topic early and have realistic expectations, as it is likely that the matter will not be resolved with the first discussion.
- Look into alternate transportation solutions and be prepared to discuss options.
Friday, October 11, 2013
Consider the financial risks by not overextending
yourself when buying a home. A good rule of thumb is not to
buy a home that costs over 2.5 times your annual salary.
Many online calculators can assist you in determining the
maximum price for a home you can afford.
Consider the property and casualty risks. What are the
key loss exposures to the home? For example, is the home in
a flood zone? How far is it from the nearest fire
department? Is it in an earthquake seismic zone 3 or 4?
What is the condition of the home? If it is apparent the
home has not been properly cared for by viewing surface
level deficiencies, there is a good chance that deeper
problems may eventually manifest themselves. Thus, the value
of a good home inspector cannot be overemphasized. If it is
an older home, when were the various systems upgraded?
What types of losses have appeared on the Comprehensive
Loss Underwriting Exchange report during the past 5 years?
For example, a pattern of water losses may be a warning
What type of loss control features does the home have?
For example, is there a central station burglar and fire
alarm system or a sprinkler system? If the home is in a
hurricane-prone area, what windstorm protection devices are
Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620Bob Lancaster InsuranceServing Florida since 1964
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
An ongoing debate in sinkhole claims and litigation is whether the legislature intended for Florida insurers to provide coverage for sinkhole activity that causes aesthetic damage only.
In September 2013, in the cases of Erasmo and Maria Gonzalez v. Liberty Mutual and Robert and Patricia Bonitch v. Liberty Mutual, two Middle District of Florida judges held that “structural damage” does not mean “damage to the structure.” Although the judges provided slightly different meanings for “structural damage,” each opinion is properly characterized as requiring that sinkhole activity cause damage that impairs the ability of the property to be structurally sound.
A closer look at the orders shows a slight variation in how the Gonzalez and Bonitch courts defined “structural damage.” Despite this variation, it is worth noting that both definitions require the insured to show that sinkhole activity has compromised the home’s structural integrity:
Gonzalez: “Damage to a part, material, or assembly of the building that affects the stability of the building or that supports a dead or designed live load, and the removal of which part, material, or assembly could be expected to cause a portion of the building to collapse or fail.”
Bonitch: “Damage that impairs the structural integrity of the building.”
As a result of these orders, insurers and insureds may consider consulting with their engineering experts to assess the potential effect on the coverage permitted for their claims. Engineers will need to examine all of the damage – floor movement; cracking to floors, walls, and ceilings; and separation of materials. Experts will likely shift some of their focus from the subsurface soil conditions to the building, and thus engineers should be armed with calculations and explanations for why the damage fits the definition of “structural damage.”
The impact of these cases is highly debatable. Although a complete review of the legislative history and case law is outside the scope of this article, it is important to note the following. Most insurers did not have a definition of “structural damage” in their policies because the legislature did not provide one until 2011. The 2011 definition of “structural damage” is a highly technical, five prong approach to evaluating whether the property’s load bearing capacity has been compromised and whether the property is in danger of collapsing. Following the announcement of the 2011 statutory definition for “structural damage,” many insurers amended their sinkhole loss coverage to incorporate the definition. Accordingly, the Gonzalez and Bonitch orders appear to reflect an analysis of policies from the 2006 to 2011 timeframe that did not contain a definition for “structural damage.” At this time, the majority of the pending lawsuits arise from policies written during 2006 to 2011, and therefore, the Gonzalez and Bonitch orders are relevant to much of the current litigation.
Nevertheless, if there is a new claim and the relevant policy has been amended to incorporate the 2011 definition of “structural damage,” then these cases are immaterial. Further, please also note that the Gonzalez and Bonitch orders are from federal district courts and are not yet binding precedent. With this context, it should be easier to understand the overall impact of the orders, and to be aware of the potential shift in how courts might present these claims to a jury.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Every first-party property insurance contract provides the insured with an obligation to provide notice of the claim. Some require "prompt" notice and others require reasonable notice. Under Florida law, if an insured fails to give reasonable notice of his or her claim, then the insured must overcome a presumption of prejudice. Whether a carrier has been prejudiced by untimely notice is typically for a jury to determine based on the facts of the claim.1 For example, hurricane damage is often noticed for the first time months or even years after the storm. In sinkhole claims, many policyholders do not fully understand that they have coverage for sinkhole activity, not simply a catastrophic event. Upon learning that certain damages to their property may be related to sinkhole activity, they notify their carrier and request a full investigation.
A jury considers whether the delay in reporting the claim was reasonable and whether the carrier was prejudiced by the delay. An important question to consider is whether an engineer can attribute the damage to the event. For example, if only hurricane strength winds could have caused the damage and there has not been another hurricane or wind event in the area since the reported date of loss, then it is pretty easy to connect the dots. Many cases raise more complicated issues.
As such, litigation over cases revolving around whether notice was timely has increased, specifically related to Hurricane Wilma. As a result, the legislature attempted to clarify the issue and passed legislation that provides finality to a potential hurricane claim.
Florida Statute 627.70132, titled "Notice of windstorm or hurricane claim," provides:
A claim, supplemental claim, or reopened claim under an insurance policy that provides property insurance, as defined in s. 624.604, for loss or damage caused by the peril of windstorm or hurricane is barred unless notice of the claim, supplemental claim, or reopened claim was given to the insurer in accordance with the terms of the policy within 3 years after the hurricane first made landfall or the windstorm caused the covered damage. For purposes of this section, the term “supplemental claim” or “reopened claim” means any additional claim for recovery from the insurer for losses from the same hurricane or windstorm which the insurer has previously adjusted pursuant to the initial claim. This section does not affect any applicable limitation on civil actions provided in s. 95.11 for claims, supplemental claims, or reopened claims timely filed under this section.This statute has a great impact on Florida's policyholders. An insured must report the claim within three years of the date the storm makes landfall or causes damage to property. Why is this significant? I think it highlights the importance of Florida's public adjusters and attorneys that represent and advocate for policyholders. An insured must get it right, the first time. Often, presenting a claim to a carrier requires line item estimates and engineering reports to ensure that all of the benefits under the insurance contract are being honored and to help recognize certain damages that may not manifest themselves to the naked eye until years later.
These "supplemental" or "reopened" claims as they are referred to, are often the result of a failure of an insured to properly present the claim and/or the carriers failing to fully investigate the reported claim. Either way, it impacts every policyholder and substantiates the need for the retention of an insurance professional that will fully inspect the property damage and properly present the claim.
1 Leben v. State Farm Fla. Ins. Co., 93 So. 3d 528 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012).
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
A close look at Professional Employer Organizations
Workers’ Compensation fraud has reached epidemic proportions within the United States, costing legitimate employers, employees and healthcare providers millions of dollars per year. The landscape of this fraud is ever-changing; no longer is it limited to employees exaggerating workplace injuries or working for cash while collecting workers’ compensation benefits. More recent schemes involve employers under-reporting payrolls to receive lower workers’ compensation premiums, or incorrectly classifying employees to save insurance costs. Throw in unscrupulous medical providers billing for services they never performed, and it’s no wonder that healthcare and medical care costs are so egregious.
The result of these and other fraudulent activities is that businesses and much-needed jobs are often forced out of regions that operate under high workers’ compensation costs. In some cases, in an effort to offset these costs, businesses may be forced to increase the price of goods and services, thus impacting local economies. These activities also serve to create an environment that results in unnecessary delays in the processing of legitimate claims that can affect an injured worker’s ability to obtain crucial medical treatment for true workplace injuries.
To effectively compete in this new business world, employers are attempting to shift the burden of workers’ compensation costs to entities known as Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs).
According to the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO) there are an estimated 700 PEOs in operation throughout the 50 states. While PEOs undoubtedly have rescued employers from the high costs associated with the administration of workers’ compensation programs, their very existence has also set the stage for the emergence of PEO-related workers’ compensation fraud. With acknowledgement to the fact that the overwhelming majority of PEOs are legitimate, law abiding companies, the emergence of fraud in this arena should put employers on alert when contemplating entering into the PEO arrangement.
WHAT IS A PEO?
A PEO is an entity that contractually assumes various employer rights and human resources responsibilities through the undertaking of an “employer relationship” with workers either assigned to or hired by its clients (employers). In short, the PEO and the employer/client share an employment relationship that allows the PEO to handle and manage employee-related matters such as payroll, benefits, tax matters and, in many cases, workers’ compensation programs, thus allowing the employer to concentrate on the operation and revenue producing aspects of its business. This relationship has become so commonplace that various states actually recognize PEOs and their clients as “co-employers.”
This co-employment relationship has been summarized by NAPEO, in part, as a contractual relationship whereby the PEO:
- Co-employs workers at the client locations and assumes responsibility as an employer for specified purposes;
- Reserves a right to direct and control these employees;
- Pays wages and employment taxes of the employee out of its own accounts;
- Reports, collects and deposits employment taxes with the state and federal authorities;
- Establishes and maintains an employment relationship with its employees that is intended to be long-term and not temporary; and
- Retains the right to hire, re-assign and fire the employees.
POTENTIAL FRAUD ISSUES
When an employer outsources its workers’ compensation coverage responsibility to a PEO, it is entrusting that all insurance requirements will be fulfilled by the PEO. This means that the PEO will be responsible for classifying employees, communicating payroll to insurers, selecting appropriate coverage and paying premiums. This also presupposes that the PEO is familiar with the local workers’ compensation statutes and regulations. Unknowingly, some employers may willingly shift this burden to the PEO without securing contractual evidence of the PEO’s rights and duties. What’s worse, these same employers may rely on an ambiguous contract drafted by the PEO which does nothing to protect the employer’s interests. Unfortunately, the lack of a clearly defined, written contract between the PEO and employer can not only lead to fraud or misrepresentation by the PEO, but also can negate the existence of a valid PEO relationship in states that require a written PEO contract.
When an employer is contracted with a PEO and a workers’ compensation claim is filed, questions often arise as to whether appropriate insurance has been maintained, if there is documentary evidence available to support the PEO’s responsibility to defend the workers’ compensation claim and even, sometimes, whether the PEO is fiscally solvent. There have been cases where a “fly by night” PEO is saddled with liability by a workers' compensation judge and simply fails to pay benefits. Under such circumstances the employer would likely be liable for the injury and could be put into a situation where no insurance exists, thus exposing employers to criminal liability in certain states.
The fact that the PEO and its employer-client are viewed as co-employers in the workers’ compensation system has a perceived advantage. From a theoretical standpoint, an employer can farm out its workers’ compensation coverage while keeping the protection of tort immunity. It follows that in the PEO relationship, where the PEO and the employer both share the right to control the employee, both technically possess the right to assert tort immunity. However, this has not stopped a number of lawsuits naming the employer as a third party tortfeasor after a workers’ compensation injury, which has led some states to create specific statutes related to workers’ compensation that govern PEO contracts and tort immunity. If an employer is unaware of these statutes and if the PEO does not strictly adhere to the provisions of the statute, the alleged “PEO relationship” may not be binding and the employer could face expensive litigation to prove that tort immunity applies or that a PEO co-employer relationship even exists.
PROACTIVE RISK MANAGEMENT
The emergence of incidents of PEO fraud in relation to workers’ compensation matters provides a cautionary tale for employers considering entering into the PEO arrangement. Employers should be aware of statutes in certain states that require a PEO to define its contractual obligations and the protocols by which the PEO is to be managed through a “Professional Employer Agreement.” For employers operating in states without such legislation, it is important to insist on a written contractual agreement with the PEO, drafted in unambiguous language that is understood and agreed upon by both parties at the start of the co-employment relationship. Within this contract, a provision as to the allocation of workers’ compensation coverage must be included. Further, the employer must have the contractual ability to request and secure proof of workers’ compensation coverage from the PEO. The contract should also provide employers with access to the loss history and total wages paid for covered employees. Operating in this fashion will ensure that the employer is engaging in an environment that is free from potential PEO fraud