Posts tagged "Accident insurance"

Gas Line Explosion in California Desert Destroys Equipment

Southern California authorities say nobody was hurt when a natural gas line caught fire and exploded, destroying heavy construction equipment in the western Mojave Desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

The San Bernardino Sun reported blast was reported Sunday just south of Interstate 40, about 25 miles east of Barstow.

Ryan Vaccaro, spokesman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department, says a crew of about 16 workers was evacuated before the explosion when somebody smelled a gas odor.

The newspaper says the blast destroyed equipment, created a crater in the ground and sparked a small brush fire.

The line belongs to Southern California Gas Co., according to spokeswoman Christine Detz. She tells the newspaper a drop in pressure within the transmission line preceded the explosion.

The cause is under investigation.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/14/2018 at 19:41

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California Transit Agency Fined $220K in Worker Deaths

A Northern California judge has fined the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency $220,000 for the deaths of two workers accidentally hit by a commuter train.

The two workers were killed in 2013 while inspecting a track east of San Francisco. The California Public Utilities Commission sought the fine and three years of probation after determining the transit agency’s safety rules and procedure were inadequate. The agency will have to pay an additional $440,000 if it violates terms of its probation, which include tightening its safety rules and submitting more detailed safety reports.

BART spokespeople didn’t return phone and email inquiries.

The two workers had their backs to the train when struck in violation of agency safety rules. One member of inspection crews is always supposed to be watching for trains.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/14/2018 at 19:40

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California Governor Jerry Brown Signs Surplus Lines Association Backed Bill

Assembly Bill 1641, legislation offered and lobbied by the Surplus Line Association of California that is designed to give the California Department of Insurance more flexibility in deciding which coverages to add to the Export List, was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The bill unanimously passed both chambers of the California legislature.

The new law will be crucial in ensuring coverage for commercial consumers and also for emerging new technologies, including high-speed rail and autonomous vehicles, as well as other large commercial projects, and new risks such as legal, recreational cannabis and cybersecurity risks, according to the SLA.

AB 1641 was introduced and sponsored by Assembly Insurance Chair Tom Daly, D-Anaheim.

Surplus Lines Association of California Executive Director Benjamin McKay.

“We commend Governor Brown for signing this important bill,” Benjamin McKay, the SLA’s executive director, said in a statement. “The governor has demonstrated a forward-thinking vision and an embrace of innovation, and we are grateful to him for enacting this law.”

The Export List is a list of coverages, maintained by the CDI, which are eligible for placement in the surplus line market without the necessity of a broker obtaining three declinations from the admitted market. Coverages are placed on the Export List after the CDI holds a public hearing and determines that the coverages are not readily available in the admitted market.

The SLA operates as a self-governed private organization that serves as the statutory surplus line advisory organization to the CDI and facilitates the state’s capacity to monitor and direct surplus line brokers’ placements of insurance with eligible non-admitted insurers.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/05/2018 at 19:40

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San Francisco Airport Experiences Another Air Canada Jet Safety Issue

Another Air Canada safety issue at San Francisco Airport is under investigation.

The Federal Aviation Administration said this week it is investigating the second serious safety issue in three months involving an Air Canada passenger jet landing at San Francisco airport.

Six times the control tower at San Francisco International Airport ordered an incoming Air Canada plane to abort its landing, fearing another plane might be on the runway. Each time, the order went unanswered.

Finally, air traffic controllers Sunday night took out an emergency red light and aimed it outside their window toward the jet to try to get the pilots’ attention. That didn’t work either, the plane landed and one of the pilots then radioed that he was having problems with the radio.

“That’s pretty evident,” the controller responded.

In July, an Air Canada jet with 140 people on board nearly landed on a taxiway where four planes were waiting before takeoff, prompting the FAA to issue new rules for nighttime landings and control tower staffing at the airport.

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Posted by Insurance - 05/05/2018 at 19:40

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Worker Safety, Regulation Overload Among Highlights of Drone Expo In California

Drones may already be impacting the world of workers’ compensation.

Fewer workers on communications towers are falling to their deaths, according to Todd Schlekeway, executive director of the National Association of Tower Erectors.

Schlekeway, who was speaking at a panel on Tuesday at the Drone World Expo in San Jose, Calif., which runs through Thursday, was citing an OSHA study of 135 deaths on communications towers recorded since 2003.

Schlekeway was moderating a panel to talk about how drones, or unmanned aerial systems, are transforming the communications industry, along with Thomas Camp, in business and product development with Verizon’s innovation program, Christopher Moccia, executive vice president of telecommunications for Measure, and Art Pregler, UAS program director for AT&T.

Todd Schlekeway (left), with the National Association of Tower Erectors, moderated a panel to talk about how drones are transforming the communications industry, along with Art Pregler, with AT&T, Christopher Moccia, with Measure, and Thomas Camp, with Verizon.

The OSHA study shows that after a spike in deaths in 2013 and 2014, when a massive amount of communication tower building took place to keep up with an explosion in cellular demand, the number of deaths have been falling.

There were four deaths in 2015, seven deaths in 2016 and two deaths so far this year, although the year isn’t over and there were some recent deaths that have yet to be reported, according to Schlekeway.

He noted that there are now 1.2 smartphone devices per person in the U.S., and there are more than 308,000 cell sites and towers. With demand continuing for more towers, and maintenance required of all of those towers, Schlekeway and his fellow panelists said drones are increasingly important in helping to keep workers safer.

Drones are being used often to check out towers for natural hazards like bee hives and raptor nests, to look for infrastructure defects that could injure or kill someone ascending a tower, and to determine what tools will be needed when workers get to their destination high in the air to save trips up, the panelists said.

Rules and Regulations

Despite some consensus followed by some decision making from Congress and the FAA on drone regulations over the past few years, just who is calling the shots when it comes to making drone laws and regulations is far from decided.

It was a difficult question members of one panel tried to tackle, including Charles Raley, unmanned aircraft systems team lead for enforcement, policy and outreach for Federal Aviation Administration.

He and fellow panelists attempted to give a picture of the state of laws and regulations concerning drones, which are being hammered out from federal down to local levels.

“The current state is there’s a lot of tension in this area, and there’s a lack of clarity as well,” Raley said. “Unfortunately, there’s not exactly a clear answer as to who controls what.”

Speaking for the FAA and what it controls, he offered that “we think it’s a lot.”

He said many laws already on the books of state and local governments, such as nuisance ordinances and laws governing acts of voyeurism, that will cover most issues that are being created by drone operators.

Drone Insurance

The lone insurance presence with a booth at the expo was BWI Aviation Insurance, a Corona, Calif.-based broker specializing in drone and other aerospace coverage.

Wesley Ellish, who was working the booth with a few fellow brokers, said they decided to take a spot at the expo in hopes of selling polices and educating drone users on the need for insurance.

“It kind of seems like insurance is on the backburner for some of these guys,” Ellish said.

She said that while several attendees who stopped at the booth felt insurance was the last of their worries, they were able to give dozens of quotes for basic liability policies to offer drone operators coverage.

Quotes were given to a mix of operators, ranging from startup companies to companies that were already considered mid-sized with growing fleets of drones, but by far the class of business that showed the biggest interest in buying drone insurance were instructors, she said.

“I’ve noticed we’ve had quite a few instructors coming up,” she said.

She said they were interested in a training policy that covers the drone and property damage incurred while they or their students were operating the drone.

Panels on Wednesday include “Drones in the Insurance Industry,” “Follow the Money: Exploring the Drone Investment Climate,” and “Drone Response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.”

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Posted by Insurance - 04/29/2018 at 19:41

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Northern California Wildfires Burn Wine Country Homes, Force Evacuations

Firefighters battled roughly 10 wind-whipped fires across Northern California’s wine country early Monday, triggering a rush by residents to flee the area.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered after blazes broke out late Sunday across four counties as strong winds buffeted the area,

With so many fires, residents of Sonoma County struggled to figure out what roads to take, finding downed trees or flames blocking some routes in the region north of San Francisco Bay.

Hundreds of evacuees gathered at an all-night Safeway market in Sonoma. Several residents said they saw homes burning.

The Press Democrat reported that flames destroyed homes and a historic barn, and authorities worked to clear out hospitals and senior centers in northwestern Santa Rosa, which is about 54 miles north of San Francisco.

Deputies were dispatched to help firefighters and California Highway Patrol officers with evacuations, according to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.

Windsor Fire Chief Jack Piccinini said that nearly all of Sonoma County’s fire resources were being used.

“Everyone in Sonoma County is spread out fighting these fires, but they don’t have enough resources to handle something like this. The only thing we can do is hope the wind will come down,” he said.

Emergency lines were inundated with callers reporting smoke in the area, prompting officials to ask that the public “only use 911 if they see actual unattended flames, or are having another emergency.”

The National Weather Service said widespread wind gusts between 35 mph and 50 mph were observed in the north San Francisco Bay region and isolated spots hit 70 mph. The winds were expected to subside at midday.

Cal Fire reported that firefighters were battling a 200-acre fire in Napa County.

Community centers, the Sonoma County Fairgrounds and other local centers were opened for evacuees.

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Posted by Insurance - 03/15/2018 at 19:40

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New Rules for Oil-Gas Lines Proposed Following Colorado Blast

Colorado energy regulators are proposing tighter rules for shutting down oil and gas pipelines after a fatal explosion blamed on natural gas leaking from a line that was thought to be out of service but was still connected to a well.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rules govern flow lines, which carry oil, gas and wastewater from wells to tanks and other gathering equipment.

A public hearing is scheduled for Dec. 11-12, and the commissioners could vote to approve the rules after that.

The rules are in response to an April 17 explosion in Firestone that killed two people and destroyed a house. Investigators said the explosion was caused by odorless, unrefined gas leaking from a severed flow line.

Investigators said the line was believed to be abandoned but was still connected to an operating well with the valve turned to the open position.

The flow line was severed about 10 feet (3 meters) from the house, and gas seeped into the home’s basement, investigators said.

The well and pipeline were in place several years before the house was built.

The presence of homes and schools near oil and gas operations is a contentious issue in Colorado, where the booming Front Range urban corridor overlaps with an oil and gas field.

The 14-page draft of new regulations says flow lines that are permanently taken out of service must be disconnected, drained and sealed at both ends, and any above-ground portion must be removed. The rules also allow energy companies to simply remove the lines.

Bruce Baizel of the Oil and Gas Accountability Project, which advocates for environmental and community protections from energy development, said the rules should require energy companies to remove all abandoned flow lines to prevent explosions like the one in Firestone.

Removing them would also prevent the leak of any chemicals left in the lines, he said.

Dan Haley, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry group, said he hopes the new rules take into account the differences in energy company operations in the state. The Colorado Petroleum Council, another industry group, is still reviewing the rules and had no immediate comment, Executive Director Tracee Bentley said.

The proposals also require energy companies to provide information on the location of flow lines to the Call 811 program, which marks the site of underground utilities at a property owner’s request. That’s meant to help homeowners and construction companies avoid inadvertently severing a line.

The new rules also revise or add requirements for designing, installing, testing and documenting flow lines.

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Posted by Insurance - 03/15/2018 at 19:40

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Northern California Wildfires: Insurance Industry Ready to Assist With ‘Massive’ Recovery

Rebuilding the Northern California areas devastated by wildfire will be a long-term effort, and insurers say they will be there to help their affected policyholders get back on their feet.

Tens of thousands of evacuees began making their way home Tuesday, nearly 10 days after the fires broke out in the middle of the night on Oct. 9.

But many won’t have a home to return to, as multiple fires damaged or destroyed 7,000 structures across the state, with the majority of those in Napa and Santa Rosa, Calif.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said Thursday that preliminary loss data from eight California insurers currently processing claims reflects $1.045 billion in losses to commercial and residential structures, personal and commercial vehicles, and agricultural equipment.

Four employees of George Petersen Agency lost their homes and 25 were evacuated from theirs while responding to policyholders.

“These numbers are just the beginning of the story as one of the deadliest and costliest wildfire catastrophes in California’s history,” said Jones.

Catastrophe modeler RMS early this week reported losses could reach up to $6 billion.

Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano at a press conference at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds Wednesday said he had just flown over the county and saw the extent of the damage from the Tubbs Fire. (View aerial imagery of Tubbs Fire damage)

“I could not believe how much burn damage and how many houses have burned,” he said. “We are going to be dealing with this for months and years in the county … This won’t be over for some time.”

As the region transitions from crisis response to recovery efforts, the insurance industry’s work is just getting started. Carrier representatives began blanketing the fire-ravaged areas in the days following when the fires broke out, with some arriving within a matter of hours.

The office of Robb Daer, principal of George Petersen Insurance Agency in Santa Rosa, became ground zero for several companies in the days immediately following the Tubbs Fire. That fire, one of the largest burning in Northern California last week, exploded over the hill from nearby Calistoga and crossed a six lane stretch of California’s 101 freeway in Northern Santa Rosa, taking out nearly everything in its path. It has since burned more than 36,000 acres.

Reps from multiple carriers, including Nationwide, Safeco, Liberty Mutual and The Hartford, descended upon the George Petersen Agency, where companies also sent policyholders to get funds if they had experienced a loss.

“It’s just been overwhelmingly crazy,” Daer said, who noted that four of his 70 agency employees lost their homes and 25 were displaced with evacuations, all while responding to policyholders.

The agency has eight locations across Northern California, and 10,000 personal and commercial policies in the Sonoma County area. Daer said that as of Oct. 19, they had run between 600 and 700 claims through their office, with an estimated $500 million paid out so far. The agency also set up a barbecue food area to feed people who came by, many of whom had gone days without power. Daer said they probably fed about 700-800 people over the course of a few days.

Carriers have been supportive and helpful, he said, and have assisted his office with getting information out to those not sure what to do next.

“This is an unprecedented time in our community and industry, and there is a complete sense of responsibility to help anybody who needs it. We are getting questions from hundreds of policyholders,” he said.

Carriers Mobilized

Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey said he saw carrier representatives answering peoples’ questions at an evacuation shelter the first day it opened, regardless of whether they were policyholders or not. He said it is comforting for people to be able to immediately access those resources.

“I know that the industry is here in town and I’m grateful they responded quickly and in good numbers,” he said.

Allstate Insurance Co.’s mobile response unit included two RVs and four smaller response vehicles and was ready to deploy 24 hours after the fire. Its first teams arrived in Santa Rosa on Oct. 11.

“They have had a steady stream of people visiting them, mostly with questions; they’ve been displaced from their homes and they’re not sure what their policy covers,” said Krista Conte, a field vice president for Allstate based in Rancho Cordova, Calif. “They are just looking for help. People get evacuated and they can’t return home and they are scared and want to talk to someone who is going to tell you it’s going to be OK, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Conte said the carrier also had 25 agents directly impacted from the fires in Santa Rosa and Napa. Conte said it was “striking” to see agency owners and staff who were impacted come together and help each other and their customers.

“It was really remarkable,” she said. “When something like this happens in your community, you are impacted as well.”

Conte worked on Allstate’s cat response after Superstorm Sandy, which impacted most of the Northeast, and said the carrier’s response to the California wildfires is definitely comparable to what took place after that event.

“It’s a pretty intense showing. [This is] a relatively small area to have six [cat response] vehicles. It’s about as significant an event as it gets,” Conte said. She added they will be in the area “as long as it takes.”

Phil Telgenhoff, also a field senior vice president for Allstate, said the severity of this situation isn’t lost on the company.

“It’s going to be a significant event for the industry,” he said.

CSAA Insurance Group, an insurance affiliate of AAA and one of the top three homeowners insurers in California, had processed about 2,500 claims as of Oct. 18. The company’s catastrophe response unit was set up at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds since the Tuesday after the firestorm erupted. Public Relations rep for the company Jason Willett said it has been a challenging experience for so many of the company’s policyholders.

Carrier Mobile Claims Village in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Oct. 18, 2017.

“This is probably one of the most significant disasters we’ve seen,” he said.

Critical Role

The insurance industry’s response and resources will be critical to the recovery of the wine country area, which is hugely supported by tourism and the winemaking industry.

“Insurance helps rebuild people’s lives – that’s what insurance is for, to help people get back on their feet, recover and move on with their lives,” said Willet. “We and the rest of the industry are committed to making that as efficient a process as possible.”

Officials in the area are also working furiously to ensure that rebuilding will begin quickly and efficiently.

“This is going to take a massive effort by everyone, but this is why we are in the business and this is why we are here,” Allstate’s Telgenhoff said. “This is a time where we deliver on a promise we make to our policyholders.”

He added that resources will be challenged when it comes to rebuilding, but he is hopeful the construction industry can meet the demand.

“It’s always a concern when you have a concentrated area where there’s the kind of devastation we see here. People want to rebuild and return to their homes and sometimes the sequencing of events and the speed at which that occurs is not at the rate at which people expect,” he said.

Congressman Mike Thompson, who represents parts of Sonoma and Napa County, said he expects the industry will rally to support its policyholders.

He added the industry will also be critical in preventing people from being taken advantage of, which can be a common occurrence following a major disaster.

“This isn’t my first disaster and I have experienced no issues with the insurance industry in the past,” he said. “The insurance industry will be needed to help people get through this, and I know they can do that.”

Santa Rosa Mayor Coursey agreed the industry will be hugely important to the city’s recovery.

“Nobody wants to be in a situation where they need their insurance company to step in and step up but when they are in that situation, it’s critical,” he said. “And failure of insurance to step up creates more victimization. I want to make sure we are all doing our part and I believe that the insurance industry is and will.”

Outside View

Daer worries the scale of the devastation from these wildfires isn’t realized by those outside the area, and warns the loss impact will be felt for years to come across the country.

“From my seat, it’s almost this living, breathing thing. Things aren’t slowing down but they are evolving; needs are evolving, questions are evolving and we haven’t even been hit hard with business claims yet,” he said. “It’s going to take everybody being patient, kind, and just helpful.”

He said it’s crucial carriers continue to be there for policyholders long after the dust settles on this disaster.

“The biggest thing carriers can do is try to find ways to continue to work with their policyholders and stick with them. That’s important,” he said.

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Posted by Insurance - 03/09/2018 at 19:40

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California Commissioner Adopts $1.94 Workers’ Comp Pure Premium

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has adopted an advisory pure premium rate that lowers the benchmark to $1.94 per $100 of payroll for workers’ compensation insurance.

The advisory rate is effective Jan. 1, 2018. The rate is 17.1 percent less than the average pure premium rate of $2.34 California insurers filed as of July 1.

The decision results in an advisory pure premium rate that is slightly below the $1.96 average rate recommended by the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau in its filing.

Jones issued the advisory pure premium rate three weeks after a public hearing and review of the testimony and evidence submitted.

“The continued decreases in costs to insurers should be passed along to employers through lower rates,” Jones said in a statement. “The WCIRB has once again recommended a reduction in the advisory pure premium rate, which will ultimately benefit California’s business economy if insurers lower their pricing.”

The WCIRB’s pure premium advisory rate filing demonstrated continued decreases in costs in California’s workers’ comp insurance market. The pure premium advisory rate reduction is based on insurers’ cost data through June 30 of this year.

The WCIRB will evaluate workers’ comp costs again in the summer and fall of next year when it files its pure premium rate benchmark recommendation with the California Department of Insurance.

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Posted by Insurance - 03/09/2018 at 19:40

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Insured Losses from California Wildfires Now at $3.3 Billion

The largest California insurers have so far reported more than $3.3 billion in insured losses from the October wildfire siege, now considered the most destructive fires in state history.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones on Tuesday updated insured loss claims data provided by 15 major insurers for residential and commercial claims resulting from the October wildfires that swept across the state killing 42 people and destroying more than 8,900 properties.

Jones and the California Department of Insurance on Oct. 18 reported insured loss numbers had exceeded $1 billion.

“In less than two weeks that number has increased more than threefold to more than $3.3 billion,” Jones said.

The claims count compiled by the CDI from the fires so far is: 10,016 partial residential losses; 4,712 total residential losses; 728 partial and total commercial losses; 3,200 personal auto losses; 91 commercial vehicle losses; 153 agricultural equipment losses; 111 water craft losses.

A firefighter walks near a home in Santa Rosa, Calif., Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. Wildfires whipped by powerful winds swept through Northern California sending residents on a headlong flight to safety through smoke and flames as homes burned. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Catastrophe modeler RMS last week gave estimates that the insured loss for the wildfires impacting Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Lake and Mendocino counties will reach between $6 billion and $8 billion. RMS earlier this month estimated losses would range from $3 billion to $6 billion. At that point the fires had destroyed a reported 3,500 structures.

Roughly 8,900 properties were destroyed by the fires, according to CAL Fire.

Jones acknowledged that the insured losses will likely continue to rise.

“We can anticipate as more claims are filed and the claims amounts increase that these numbers will increase,” Jones said.

The number of individual fires at the peak of the wildfire siege that started in early October reached 21, many of which were large and destructive. The Tubbs fire is now considered the most destructive fire in state history, having destroyed 5,400 structures. It far exceeded the damage done by the 1991 Oakland Hills fire, which was California’s most damaging fire after having destroyed 2,900 structures.

The Nuns fire destroyed 1,300 structures, and the Atlas destroyed 930 structures.

CAL Fire and RMS have said the high number of affected properties was largely due to high winds driving flying embers into neighborhoods that were normally considered low risk.

Jones said the blame for the losses should also be placed at the feet of a changing climate that has “created a new normal,” which California decisionmakers and policymakers must now take into consideration in planning going forward.

“We know that the climate is changing, we know that that the temperature is rising, we know that we are facing increased dry conditions in California and we know unfortunately that all of that taken together proses greater risk for people in California,” Jones said.

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Posted by Insurance - 03/06/2018 at 19:40

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