Louisiana Department of Insurance Office of Consumer Advocay
Volume 3, Issue 3
MARCH 2012

Sen. Sharon Broome 2012 Community Meeting
3/1/2012
Zachary Branch Library
1900 Church Street
Zachary, La.

Young Insurance Professionals 2012 Winter Conference
3/1-3/2012
Holiday Inn
2032 Northeast Evang
Lafayette, La.

NAIC 2012 Spring National Meeting
3/3-6/2012
Hilton Riverside
Two Poydras Street
New Orleans, La.

Oberlin High Career Day
3/5/2012
Oberlin High School
1 Tiger Lane
Oberlin, La.

Springhill Lions Club Meeting
3/6/2012
Springhill Lions Club
100 West Church Street
Springhill, La.

Health Care Fraud Prevention Conference
3/6/2012
Baton Rouge Marriott
5500 Hilton Ave.
Baton Rouge, La.

Acadia Council of Aging - Crowley
3/8/2012
824 E. First Street
Crowley, La.

Sen. Sharon Broome 2012 Community Meeting
3/13/2012
Flannery BREC Road Park
801 South Flannery Rd.
Baton Rouge, La.

Mer Rouge Lions Club
3/14/2012
1400 Davenport Ave.
Mer Rouge, La.

Insurance 101
3/15/2012
Grambling City Hall Community Center
127 King Street
Grambling, La.

Acadia Council of Aging – Rayne
3/20/2012
618 MLKing Drive
Rayne, La.

Acadia Council of Aging – Church Point
3/29/2012
106 Tan Street
Church Point, La.

2012 Ethics Seminar
Insurance Professionals of NE LA
3/29/2012
Comfort Suites
1401 MLK Jr. Drive
Monroe, La.

 

For speaking engagements scheduled after the release of the newsletter or for more detailed information about engagements listed in the newsletter, visit our Web site at www.ldi.la.gov. Click on the Events tab found in the center of the home page.

To view previous newsletters, click on Consumer Advocacy under Consumers; then click on Consumer Advocacy Newsletters.

To find out if Consumer Advocacy will be in your area or to request a speaker for your organization or group, call (225) 219-0619 or e-mail
consumeradvocacy@ldi.la.gov

If you no longer wish to receive this newsletter please e-mail the following address with "REMOVE" in the subject line.
consumeradvocacy@ldi.la.gov

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Auto Theft Prevention

Automobile theft adversely affects insurance premiums. Motorists living in areas with a high crime rate pay more for their automobile insurance.  Drivers can help reduce auto theft by following the tips below.

  • Lock your car.  *Law enforcement officials state that nearly 50 percent of all vehicles stolen were left unlocked. Even if you park your car in your garage, lock it. If you park in your driveway, make sure it’s well lit. Motion detectors, gates, dogs and alarms are good deterrents.
  • Take your keys. *Nearly 20 percent of all vehicles stolen had the keys in them. When you stop for gas, take your car keys and cell phone with you. Also, when you pump gas or put your child in the car, keep your keys in your hand.
  • Never leave valuables in view.  Consider legally tinted windows to deter theft.
  • Invest in a personalized license plate. A personalized plate will make your car easier for law enforcement to identify if a thief attempts a quick getaway.  
  • Automobile security tracking devices, which are usually not visible, are good for fast recovery in the event of theft.  If your car has a device, a thief won’t know beforehand that he has to disable the system.
  • When buying a new car, consider purchasing one with smart keys. Smart keys have computer chips that must be present to start the car. Other vehicle immobilizers are fuse cut-offs, kill-switches, starter, ignition and fuel disablers.

Automobile theft can also lead to identity theft. Avoid keeping information in your car that will provide a thief your home address, credit card information, and/or other personal identification information.

Some auto thieves advance from auto theft to home burglary, so don’t put your home address in your global positioning system (GPS). Instead, put in the address of a nearby business or fire station.  Also, it is not recommended that you keep your insurance cards and registration papers in your car. These documents should be kept in your purse or wallet.

Be smart and promptly report vehicle theft to your local law enforcement agency and to your insurance company. 
Additional theft prevention tips can be found on the Louisiana Automobile Theft and Insurance Fraud Prevention Authority Web site (www.ldi.la.gov/LATIFPA). View this Web site to learn what role the Louisiana Department of Insurance plays in automobile theft reduction in our state.

*statistics taken from Brookhaven College: Crime Prevention Tips

Flood Insurance

Hurricane Katrina was an eye-opener for many Louisiana residents regarding insurance.  Prior to Katrina thousands of people didn’t know or weren’t concerned about things that are important to them and their communities such as homeowners insurance, wind storm damage and flood insurance. Flooding was a problem during Hurricane Katrina with 80 percent of the city of New Orleans flooding.  Having flood insurance made a difference in many people’s lives during that time. Flood Insurance is a necessary coverage for those who live in flood prone areas and even for those in low-to-moderate risk areas.

Flood Insurance is a specific insurance coverage that protects the policyholder against property loss as a result of flooding. To determine risk factors for specific properties, insurers will often refer to topographical maps for areas susceptible to flooding: lowlands, floodplains and floodways. It is purchased through the federal government National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Flood insurance is available in communities that have met certain requirements including implementing and enforcing measures to reduce future improvements in flood hazard areas. The federal government makes flood insurance available within those participating communities as a financial protection against flood damage.  Even though flood coverage is offered through the federal program you can buy it through an insurance producer or directly from an insurance company. The company selected will handle your billing and collection issues on the policy and also facilitate any claims on behalf of the federal government. You can purchase flood insurance at any time but there is a thirty day waiting period after you’ve applied for it and paid the premium, except for certain specific situations like a new home purchase.

The official Web site of the NFIP is www.floodsmart.gov. This Web site gives you access to many different resources regarding flooding, such as agent locator, filing a claim, flood facts, frequently asked questions, the latest news regarding flooding and FEMA's address. For people without Internet access, call 1-888-379-9531.

Insurance Fraud

 Insurance fraud hurts the consumer and is a factor that increases premiums in goods and services.  You might say that, whether I report insurance fraud or not, my insurance premiums are going to increase. While that may sometimes be true, any action that you can take to reduce the impact of insurance fraud, the better it is for everyone.

The law protects persons who report suspected insurance fraud by granting them civil immunity.  That means that a person who reports suspected insurance fraud to the Louisiana Department of Insurance (LDI) Fraud Section has a legal defense against any lawsuit for libel or slander unless it can be proven that the report was made with malice, fraudulent intent or bad faith.

Insurance fraud is the willful abuse of an insurance policy for some kind of gain.  Insurance fraud can occur in various forms:

  • A policyholder and a body shop worker agree to inflate the auto damage estimate to cover the deductible.
  • A homeowner falsely claims that his home was burglarized and valuable items were stolen.
  • A doctor bills an insurer for payment of services that were not provided.
  • A driver and his co-conspirators stage accidents, while unscrupulous doctors and lawyers "handle" the subsequent medical claims and lawsuits.

Insurance fraud is one of the most costly white-collar crimes in the country.  Insurance fraud costs policyholders approximately $80 billion a year.  At least 20 cents of every insurance dollar paid goes to defray the cost of insurance fraud, and studies show that insurance fraud is increasing in America at an alarming rate.

The LDI Fraud Unit has been successful in investigating and aiding in the prosecution of fraudulent activities of insurance companies, producers, and individual claimants for over ten years.

You may report insurance fraud to the LDI Fraud Section by mail at P.O. Box 3096 Baton Rouge, LA 70821-3096; by phone at (225) 342-4956 or online at www.ldi.la.gov.

Consumer Outreach

The Office of Consumer Advocacy (OCA) functions as a source for assistance with insurance questions and concerns and to ensure that consumers understand their rights as an insurance policyholder.  Our hope is that this newsletter provides helpful information using uncomplicated explanations of insurance coverage, insight into how to handle the claims process and suggestions on ways to save money on insurance coverage.

The Office of Consumer Advocacy also takes part in various speaking engagements in the state to inform and educate Louisiana citizens about the insurance industry.  Since its creation in late 2007, the OCA has had the opportunity to participate in hundreds of outreach events. Presentations have been made to organizations such as Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, neighborhood development foundations, Council on Aging and community meetings sponsored by churches, civic organizations, Louisiana state senators and representatives, and parish councils.  The OCA also serves as a guest lecturer at various Louisiana universities, at industry conferences and educational meetings nationwide.  Topics of interest are: the role and function of each division within the Department of Insurance, Consumer 101, the Policyholder Bill of Rights, the availability and affordability of insurance, catastrophe preparedness, the claims handling process, deductibles, rate increases, and hot topics such as tax incentives and mitigation discounts.

Monthly outreach events confirmed at printing time are highlighted in the left banner section of the newsletter.  Many of these outreach events allow you to speak directly with an OCA staff member and get “one-on-one” assistance with your insurance needs. Check for an upcoming event in your area, or contact the OCA to schedule an event for your organization.

 
Office of Consumer AdvocacyP.O. Box 94214Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9214
(225) 219-0619 or (800)259-5300www.ldi.la.govconsumeradvocacy@ldi.la.gov