Consumer Advocates Having Harder Time Affecting Insurance Laws and Regulation

Posted on October 15, 2013

money and powerIn Washington D.C., as well as state capitals around the country, consumer advocates say it’s getting harder to overcome spending by insurance interest groups and get their policy messages to the public.

There aren’t numbers readily available that show how much insurance spending has increased in state capitals, but the numbers at the federal level show an insurance industry stepping up. Insurance spending — which includes the auto, health and life sectors — on federal-level campaign contributions given by individuals has increased from $21.4 million in 2004 to $29 million in 2012. Meanwhile, other dollars flow from trial lawyers and associated groups with a direct stake in car insurance policies.

While the fact that money helps insurance and other interests gain access to politicians isn’t illegal, surprising, or even new, watchdog groups say the influx in political spending is making it more and more difficult to oppose legislation and other regulations that may hurt the consumer.

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Don’t Get Hosed: Spotting Flooded Cars and Washed Titles

Posted on August 9, 2013

A car flooded by waterFull disclosure. It may sound counterintuitive for someone selling a used car, but you — the buyer — would appreciate it.

As it happens, not every salesman is gracious enough to fully disclose the background of their wares. In Massachusetts, for instance, some scammers are trying to sell salvaged cars flooded by Superstorm Sandy by using faked Oregon titles that don’t flag them as salvaged.

Spotting a vehicle with a fake title that is being fraudulently resold takes a bit of gumshoe-ness from the buyer. Why would you want to spot whether your vehicle’s title is fake? Because not knowing that your car has been salvaged because of damage from flood waters, for instance, could have serious safety and insurance implications.

If a title is faked, it’s usually discovered at the stage of inspection from an insurer, according to Donna …

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For Last-minute Tax Filers, Tips on Out-of-Pocket Disaster Costs

Posted on April 12, 2013

If you’re not enjoying this weekend, it probably because you’re toiling to meet a deadline on the other side of it: Tax Day.

April 15 marks a dreaded day on every taxpayer’s calendar. But the Ohio Insurance Institute (OII) released a guide to consumers this week that can be the tonic to assuage that anxiety:

If you’ve dipped into your own pocket for property losses no covered by insurance, you may be able to use it as a tax deduction.

Disasters that hit the Buckeye State last year included “derecho” storms in the summer and Superstorm Sandy in October. Superstorm Sandy mainly struck residents in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County, according to the OII.

Losses that were “not reimbursable through insurance” may be filed as disaster losses on a federal tax return, said the OII, which also added that filers should “discuss the particulars with a qualified tax advisor.”

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Russians Turn to Car-Cam Solutions in Face of Roadway Hazards

Posted on March 8, 2013

When a meteor exploded over Russia last month, it was a gaggle of amateurish video clips that first hit major media’s airwaves and cowed us with some cosmic wonder. Most of those saw-it-here-first clips came from a single, unlikely source: in-car dashboard cameras.

The ubiquity of dashboard cams in Russia can be credited to a general sense of chaos on the nation’s roadways, where both drivers and police are notorious for spinning a post-crash yarn or two in their favor.

Enter the dashboard cam—what was a simple vehicle add-on has become an instrument of justice. Al-Jazeera reporter Charles Stratford says dashboard cams are used by more than 1 million Russian motorists.

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Getting Paid Twice for the Same Repairs: Legal or Illegal?

Posted on August 28, 2012

Money in envelope

The North Carolina Department of Insurance (NCDOI) recently announced the arrest of a woman for receiving compensation for repairs both from the insurer and the driver who damaged her car—an action some North Carolinians may not know is illegal.

The incident had its roots in early 2012 when a driver hit Shantell Nicole Battle’s car while it sat unattended in a parking lot, according to an NCDOI statement. In April, Battle filed a $1,267 claim with her insurance company. But the NCDOI alleges that Battle also later received a $600 out-of-pocket payment for the repairs from the driver who had caused the accident. This was before the other driver knew Battle had filed a claim.

In North Carolina, this form of double dipping is illegal, according to Charlotte attorney Jim Wood, who has practiced insurance fraud law in the state for over 30 years.

“It’s not necessarily illegal to get a double recovery, say, in instances of health insurance,” Wood said.

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