September 28, 2022

Archives for December 2012

My Top Ten Books Read During 2012


R.I.P LinkedIn’s Reading List.

I always enjoyed using this feature of LinkedIn, voyeuristically seeing what other people were reading and posting titles of books that I was reading.  Alas, in December, LinkedIn stopped supporting this feature.  While I am moderately active on LinkedIn and have over 3,000 connections, the single area of my profile page that drew the most questions and comments was the Reading List.  Sometimes, people ask me for feedback on certain books or reading recommendations.  The most frequent question was, “Do you REALLY read all those books?”

(Answer:  Yes — I do!!).

I also track my book-reading through a free website called GoodReads (, which tells me that I read 68 books in 2012 — a “slow” year for me.  With that backdrop, I offer my biased and highly subjective list of the top ten books I’ve read in 2012, not necessarily in order of preference:

1.  The Flinch by Julien Smith

2.  Rethinking Aging: Growing Old and Living Well in an Overtreated Society by Nortin Hadler

3.  How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen et al.

4.  The Warrior Ethos by Steven Pressfield

5.  The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

6.  Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt

7.  Memoirs of a Rugby-Playing Man by Jay Atkinson

8.  18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction and Get the Right Things Done by Peter Bregman

9.  Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business and Influence Others by Andrew Sobel

10.  The Dog Stars  by Peter Heller

A few comments.

First, the list skews toward non-fiction, with only two novels on this list.  I rarely read fiction, so it had better be good if I crack it open and hang with it.

Second, I am much more willing to “bail” on a book if it fails to grab my interest in the first 40-50 pages.  I figure I have only a certain amount if time left.  In olden days, I would grit my teeth and slog through a book that I didn’t care for.  Now, I’m quicker to pull the rip-cord and jump to another book.

Third, I keep a running list of books I want to read, to order or to look for at the library.  When my wife Jane asks for my Christmas wish-list, she knows it will be top-heavy with books.

As to my “Top Ten” list, it will never make it on Letterman’s show.  These books may not grab you — your mileage may vary.

Shocker — no insurance or risk management texts on this list!

What were YOUR favorite books of 2012?  Let me have your nominations here or offline at!  Happy holidays!

Before the Claim: 5 Questions that Lead to Better Car Insurance Coverage

Elvis has NOT left the building.

 In fact, he is now blogging at The Claims Coach!  This week’s post comes to us from guest blogger Elvis Donnelly of Knoxville, TN.  Elvis specializes in subjects related to personal finance, auto claim and car insurance coverages (  You can reach him at


So you’ve bought yourself a car that you’re very proud about. You love it, it’s perfect and it’s everything you want it to be. You want to protect it, of course, but you don’t want to demolish your life’s savings while you’re at it. So how do you go about buying auto insurancethe smart way? By having these doubts cleared out by an insurer, so that you make no mistakes about what you’re getting into.  Here are five key questions to pose to your insurance agent or to that insurer sales rep on the other end of the telephone line:

#1.  “What kind of coverage do I need?”

Different people have different needs when insuring their cars. For instance, it may not be a wise idea to carry collision or comprehensive coverage on an older car. If your car were to be involved in a car accident, the repair costs might likely exceed the car’s value. In this case, carrying collision or comprehensive coverage may not make financial sense.  Before shopping for insurance, do your homework to understand what each kind of coverage means and THEN begin the search.

#2.  “How will you price my coverage?” 

Insurance companies provide quotes after taking a many factors into consideration. Factors such as age, sex, driving history, credit history, where you live, where you park your car etc are just a few of them. What the insurance company is trying to do is calculate the amount of risk you pose.  In other words, what is the likelihood of you making a claim? So for instance, if you are an inexperienced teen, if you have five speeding tickets or if you live in a city with a high crime rate, chances are you’ll be quoted a higher price. However, it’s always a good idea to be know the parameters the company will be judging you on and so.  Moral:  make it a point to get your facts right with them at the onset.

 #3.  “Who does my policy cover to drive my car?”

You might think this to be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how little people actually know. Most often, your policy covers anyone who is listed on it as a licensed driver, but it’s always a good idea to be sure and have your doubts clarified beforehand.

#4.  “What are my payment options?”

You could make payments in bulk, at the start of the year or opt to divide up payments on a monthly, six-monthly or quarterly basis. People who pay their premiums in one shot save up on several dollars worth of additional surcharges associated with making monthly payments. Always be clear about your options.

#5.  “What discounts can you offer?”

Different companies offer discounts to people on different bases. You could be eligible for discounts if you:

  • Have anti-theft and security devices installed to your car.
  • Put in fewer miles on the car.
  • Have completed a defensive driver course.
  • Have good credit and driving history.
  • Are a member of a club or an organization like the AARP.
  • Get good grades at school.
  • Are a senior citizen.

Four Ways to Save Money on Car Insurance:

  • Shop around for good rates.
  • Increase your deductible.
  • Bundle your home and auto insurance policies.
  • Get multiple policies (life, car, home etc) through the same company

Enter the car insurance process with eyes wide open. You’ll be glad you did!

Post-Sandy, Gov. Cuomo’s Gaseous Hot-Air Mass Poses Three Threats to Insurers

[NOTE:  This week, the “Claims Coach” welcomes a guest post by friend and fellow claims colleague Chantal Roberts CPCU, AIC, RPA.  Chantal is Vice President of Claims at Affirmative Risk Management, an independent adjusting firm and a third party administrator for several syndicates at Lloyd’s of London. Her career reflects 14 years of accomplishments in the insurance industry with specialization in commercial general liability, special investigations/fraud investigations, commercial auto insurance, homeowners insurance, and cargo insurance.  You can reach her at (501) 228-0900 or at] 


In Christmas in Connecticut, Uncle Felix asks Sam to define “cat-eh-stroph”.  Sam responds, “It’s from the Greek.  It means ‘a misfortune, a cataclysm or a serious calamity.’”  The Eastern Seaboard experienced a catastrophe from Super-storm Sandy.  Now, the insurance industry is suffering misfortunes from well-meaning governors wanting to protect their constituents.

New York’s Governor Cuomo was among the first politicians to state, “(h)homeowners should not have to pay hurricane deductibles for damage caused by the storm.”  Later, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 52, which indefinitely suspended the statute of limitations for any claim which expired on October 26, 2012 or later.  Finally, Governor Cuomo imposed emergency regulations requiring insurance companies to respond to claims in six days rather than the N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 11, § 216.4(a) approved 15 days.

Whoa — wait a minute.  Does a governor have the right, power, and/or privilege to do this?

Like any question regarding insurance coverage, the answer is: maybe.  Let’s look at three dimensions of Gov. Cuomo’s edict:

1)      Hurricane Deductibles are deleted from the insurance contract

While the insurance industry is state-regulated, the Department of Financial Services forms the rules and regulations.  The State of New York is not a party to the insurance contract.  Cuomo isn’t empowered to reform the policy, unless a court approves it.  Cuomo is acting within his role as a consumer advocate, but this pronouncement irreparably harms New York citizens and the carriers themselves.

First, insureds hear, “You don’t have to pay a deductible.” While explaining the insured’s coverages, adjusters already start off on the wrong foot with policyholders, most of whom are shocked to learn they don’t have a “hurricane” deductible; they have a “wind/hail” deductible.  Hurricane, Tropical-Storm, Super-Storm Sandy was ultimately a windstorm.

Second, underwriters calculate premiums based on deductibles and the amount of risk both the insured and the carrier assume.  Lloyd’s of London syndicate — QBE — predicts Sandy losses will exceed of $20 billion.  With Cuomo’s  pre-emptive strike against the hurricane deductibles, the carriers could be responsible for paying an additional $2 billion.

Most insurers did not plan on spending that additional sum; if they had, premiums would have been very different, higher and, likely unaffordable for the average New Yorker.  Can small, regional insurers survive an unplanned expenditure of $2 billion or even a fraction of that eye-popping sum?  Will Cuomo and the department of insurance later have uninsured constituents because of insolvency caused by their unilateral policy reformation?

2)      Executive Order 52 indefinitely suspends the statute of limitations for any claim. 

When a catastrophe or state of emergency occurs, Cuomo can exercise (and has) authority pursuant to Section 29-a of Article 2-B of the Executive Law of New York.

So, Cuomo surely has the right to suspend Section 201 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules.  The issue here, though, is .. should he have?  As a consumer advocate, Cuomo insists that the reason for this action is to protect those who cannot reach the courthouse to file suit timely.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Louisiana courts moved the statute date (called “prescription period” in Bayou country) by a year.  Like New York, Louisiana courts were destroyed by flood water and wind damage.  Widespread evacuation and flooding due to levee breaches, plus the resulting damage from Hurricane Rita created a perceived need to extend the filing period, according to Todd Musgrave, New Orleans insurance defense attorney at Musgrave, McLachlan & Penn, L.L.C. who handled many first party hurricane losses.

Musgrave further states, “This had the effect of stretching already thin claims resources even thinner, driving up litigation costs, and taxing insurers’ ability to adequately allocate reserves, procure future reinsurance, and ultimately ensure their health for future catastrophes.”  Because of this uncertainty, many carriers left the state, creating a void of affordable premiums for homeowners.  This may have the same effect in New York due to Cuomo’s proclamations.

3)      Time deadline to respond to a claim has been moved from 15 days to 6 days.

On November 29, 2012, Cuomo issued an emergency amendment to New York Insurance Regulation 64.  This reduced the time for insurers to respond to a claim from 15 days to 6 in ten designated counties.   Furthermore, if the “response” includes an inspection, that inspection should occur within the six-day window.

Get out your Stop-watches!  The amendment is not only ludicrous, but is also impossible to honor, opening every carrier to sanctions or bad faith allegations, which will later be prosecuted at some unknown date due to the aforementioned suspension of the statute of limitations.

To be clear: every insured deserves a prompt investigation. It is the cornerstone of good faith claim-handling.  As a claims manager, I personally vetted three CAT adjuster supervisors.  Two said that, due to the lack of gas immediately after Sandy, some appraisers rode bikes and borrowed ladders from insureds simply to inspect the premises.  They went on to say that FEMA barred appraisers access to destroyed areas because of rules that, if one were to enter a damaged area, one needed three people in the vehicle.  The appraisers had to get a special form letting them enter the designated areas one at a time.

Finally, as winter approaches, daylight begins around 7 am and ends around 5pm.  That’s a short day for getting on roofs and in houses with no electricity. Appraisers cannot physically inspect the 60+ claims they are receiving daily into a 6-day period.

Sandy was indeed a catastrophe as Uncle Felix and Sam discussed.  Usually when a well-meaning act goes awry in Hollywood, the protagonist saves the day.  Here, though, it will take a long time to rebuild the relationship that carriers have with the State of New York and its insureds, due to Governor Cuomo’s edicts.


(Humor) Holiday Buzzkill When Risk Managers Take Over Christmas

I cannot claim total authorship of the following and cannot trace its lineage.  Nevertheless, I offer this as to what can happen when the risk managers take over Christmas.  (And you thought  the Grinch was bad!?)


Dear Staff,

Please be advised that all employees planning to dash through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh, going over the fields and laughing all the way are required to undergo a risk Assessment addressing the safety of open sleighs for members of the public. This assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly where there are multiple passengers. Please note that permission must also be obtained in writing from landowners before their fields may be entered. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.

Benches, stools and orthopedic chairs are now available for collection by any shepherds planning or required to watch their flocks at night. While provision has also been made for remote monitoring of flocks by CCTV cameras from a centrally heated shepherd observation hut, all facility users are reminded that an emergency response plan must be submitted to account for known risks to the flocks. The angel of the Lord is additionally reminded that — prior to shining his/her glory all around — s/he must confirm that all shepherds are wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment to account for the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and the overwhelming effects of Glory.

Following last year’s well publicized case, everyone is advised that EEOC legislation prohibits any comment with regard to the redness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr. R Reindeer from reindeer games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offense.

While it is acknowledged that gift-bearing is commonly practiced in various parts of the world, particularly the Orient, everyone is reminded that the bearing of gifts is subject to Hospitality Guidelines and all gifts must be registered. This applies regardless of the individual, even royal personages. It is particularly noted that direct gifts of currency or gold are specifically precluded under provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  Further, caution is advised regarding other common gifts, such as aromatic resins that may evoke allergic reactions.

Finally, in the recent case of the infant found tucked up in a manger without any crib for a bed, Social Services have been advised and will be arriving shortly.

Merry Christmas,

Risk Management Department



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