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As my wife frequently reminds me, much of our travel in recent years seems to center around insurance industry events or marathons. So, it was a great treat for both of us to have been able to travel to the island of Kauai, in Hawaii, for nothing but pure, relaxing, vacation fun this summer. We hiked, swam, snorkeled, napped, read and ate on one of the most beautiful places on this earth. Beaches, mountains, canyons… Kauai has it all. And I came back to work, tanned, rested and ready.

And what a great treat it’s been to have had a summer with relatively moderate temperatures, here in the Mid-Atlantic (at least until the latter part of August). I’ve been able to get most of my training runs done at around 70 degrees by getting up and out early in the morning. I’m looking forward to traveling to Portland, Oregon in early October for their marathon, as well as getting together with a couple of former employees, April Roth and Mandy Owen, who have relocated to Portland. I’ve already asked for local help in putting together a things-to-do-places-to-see itinerary.

So, we’ve been getting these calls at the office lately. Probably about once a month or so. I’m not sure if it’s coming from just a single company or different ones each time. But, people in India seem to want to handle our “back-office” functions. I know banks and credit card companies and everybody else who thinks they can squeeze a dime by shipping jobs overseas seems to have signed on to these schemes, but now they want insurance underwriters, too? I don’t think so.

We have been delivering policies digitally in recent months, though. It gets the product delivered faster and consumes a whole lot less paper in the process. The feedback that we get is that agents prefer electronic delivery and consumers like it, too. I think we’ve reached the point where we’re now more comfortable filing and retrieving digital documents that we are with paper ones.


photo by Anonymous - Creative Commons

Most business owners take some steps to secure their computer systems, but the reality is that no system is invincible. If somebody knows the name of your dog and thus has your password, you’ve got trouble. Determining the cause and extent of the breach, complying with laws, correcting damage, and managing public relationship and regulatory investigations or potential lawsuits can truly drain a business.

Markel has recently developed DataBreach, an insurance product specifically designed to provide coverage for the financial costs that can arise from a failure of an organization to meet the requirements that they protect confidential information. There have been recent state and federal laws and regulations on the subject of breaches including the expansion of the HIPAA data privacy rules (as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009), the FTC’s red flag rules, and requirements for car dealers and utility providers.

What’s special about DataBreach is the breadth of coverage provided. Here’s the breakdown:

Data Breach & Privacy Liability (third party coverage)
• Covers liability arising out of unauthorized access to confidential third party data
• Includes a broad definition of “unauthorized access” including theft or loss of paper records
• Provides defense and damages on insured’s behalf, including privacy breach investigations by governmental authorities

Data Breach Loss to Insured (first party coverage)
• Costs to restore insured’s own data
• Theft of money and securities through unauthorized access
• Extra expenses while recovering from the breach

Electronic Media Coverage
• Covers Web content which is alleged to include:

Libel, slander or other defamation

Accidental public posting of private information

Copyright and trademark infringement

Supplementary Payments in addition to the limit of liability for breach mitigation costs and reward reimbursement

What are the target classes for this coverage? How about medical facilities? Auto dealerships. Insurance agencies (yeah, you). Regional banks and credit unions. Benefit administrators. Retail stores.

Limits of up to $5,000,000 are available and premiums start at $5,000.


Photo by Anonymous - Creative Commons

We’ve got a bit of a test project going on. Did you know that you can go to our website, landersunderwriting.com, and get quotes on-line? It’s true. We’re beta-testing the system and limiting it to just a few lines of business: Personal Umbrella, Special Events and Non-Profit Directors & Officers Liability. It should be easy to navigate and the goal is to make things quick and simple for our producers. But, that’s the point of the test project. We’d like to know what you think. Which means we hope that you’ll try it.

Just go to our website and click on the “Get Quote” icon in the upper left corner of the page. Follow the instructions from there. Tell us about your experience – good or bad. That feedback will let us know if there are things that we need to fix. Or if we should expand the project. Or abandon the project.

Of course, if you just don’t care to use the on-line quoting system, that’s okay, too. Make the phone call. Mail the application, Fax the application. Email the application. Whatever works for you is fine with us.


photo by artindeepkoma - Creative Commons

My wife found a snake in our house this morning. It was just a baby one, maybe 6 inches long. She claims that she was just trying to “shoo” it out, through the french doors with a broom, but somehow managed to kill it in the process. That’s one way to deal with unwelcome houseguests.

The other way involves professional animal removal services. There are actually businesses that specialize in getting critters out of human environments. Bees and wasps, mice, rats, skunks, raccoons, snakes, squirrels and birds all have ways of finding their way into homes and finding them so comfortable that they decide to take up residence. Those homeowners who have neither the skill nor inclination to perform the eviction themselves can call in the pros. These guys will trap, poison or otherwise send the animals packing. They’ll also perform minor carpentry and repair work to fix up damage to the house and prevent the animals from getting back in.

So, what do you think the chances are that a standard carrier would provide CGL coverage for one of these animal removal services? We will. All it takes to get a quote is a fully completed ACORD application. Don’t worry about finding an ISO classification; just describe what they’re doing and provide the payroll and receipts. We’ll take it from there.


photo by Jeffrey Beall - Creative Commons

Every once in a while we hear one of those ironic stories about union staff employees going on strike against their employer – the union. Well, in a similar vein, it’s now reported that the national advocacy group for older Americans, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is being accused of age discrimination. Bonita Brady, a 63-year-old Michigan worker, claims that the AARP passed her over for a series of jobs because she was too old, even though reviews by supervisors rated her as an excellent worker. She lost her job during reorganization and had been turned down for nine vacancies within the organization. She sued in federal court in Michigan, where she sought more than $25,000 in damages.

Now, let’s do the numbers. In 2008, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 24,582 charges of age discrimination, which is an increase of 28% over the prior year. The EEOC resolved 21,415 age discrimination charges in 2008 and recovered $82,800,000 in monetary benefits for the charging parties and other aggrieved individuals. It should be noted that many of the claim not resolved at the EEOC resurface in state and federal courts, so those numbers don’t reflect the entire picture.

While overall employment discrimination complaints are also at a record high (up 15% to 95,402 EEOC complaints) the most dramatic increase was in the age-related complaints.

If only there was a way for businesses to protect themselves from the potential costs of defending against and paying for these claims. But, wait, there is: Employment Practices Liability. Y’all need to be telling your clients these stories. If you provide the information, the need for coverage will be evident.


photo by openfly - Creative Commons

There are lots of signs that the UVa students are back in Charlottesville. More traffic. Parking lots turned into sales outlets for cheap rugs. Lots of empty blue beer cups on sidewalks and lawns. None of this is unique to Charlottesville. I’m sure it’s the same story in College Park, Georgetown, Harrisonburg, Frostburg, Towson and the dozens of other college towns in our region. And students don’t want to live on campus for any longer than they’re required to do so, bringing us to the topic of: off-campus student housing.

Best we can figure, the only standard carriers that write student housing are the ones that don’t know that it’s student housing. It’s just an apartment. It’s just a rental dwelling. Until an inspector goes out and sees those empty blue beer cups on the lawn. That’s a dead giveaway. Or, until the claim appears that had something to do with beer-pong, a balcony and a Frisbee. Then, they know it’s student housing.

Landers Underwriting provides markets for property and liability coverage for the owners of residential property who lease to students. That can range from a single-family house with 3 bedrooms rented to 3 students to a complex of 100 apartments a few blocks from campus that includes a swimming pool, a health club and a community function hall. If we know, up-front, just what the occupancy is, we can respond by providing terms for coverage that are realistic and won’t leave insureds and their agents wondering when the axe is going to fall. Could it be that a consistent, steady relationship with an insurer is better than a tenuous one?

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