No matter your opinion on the validity of global warming, the high frequency and high impact of recent natural disasters now more than ever raises homeowners’ need for good insurance coverage and full knowledge of what they are buying. And when disasters do strike, insurance companies need to deliver on the protection promised.
A comprehensive, national project being launched from Rutgers Law School’s Camden location, and in cooperation with United Policyholders, analyzes and recommends state laws to ensure that policyholders are receiving, and insurance companies are providing, essential protections. The project details key issues for insurance consumers in four categories: buying insurance, coverage, the claims process, and disaster victims.
According to Jay Feinman, a distinguished professor at Rutgers Law School and co-director of the Rutgers Center for Risk and Responsibility, based in Camden, there is a significant knowledge gap in how coverage differs nationwide. He says identifying and elaborating on what are essential protections can strengthen what is now a complicated and flawed process.
“Every state regulates insurance and insurance companies, but states differ dramatically in how much and what kind of regulation they provide for the benefit of policyholders,” says Feinman, who teaches insurance law, torts, and contract law in Camden. “The Essential Protections for Policyholders Project provides a roadmap that every state can follow in improving homeowners insurance. Giving consumers full, understandable information about insurance policies and insurance companies, providing minimum guarantees of protection, and requiring companies to act reasonably in paying claims leads to better products and fairer prices.”
The author of seven books, including Delay, Deny, Defend: Why Insurance Companies Don’t Pay Claims and What You Can Do About It (Portfolio/Penguin, 2010; Delden Press paperback, 2013) Feinman is adamant that consumers should have easily available and understandable information and tools for comparing coverage in insurance policies and about insurance companies’ claims practices.
What protections were considered essential for homeowners were selected by importance, based on decades of United Policyholders’ advising homeowners and Feinman’s longtime expertise on the insurance landscape, focusing on state legislation and regulation that concerns the relationship between homeowners and insurance companies.
“Homeowners insurance provides financial security,” adds the Rutgers Law scholar. “Fires, accidents, and storms may occur, but insurance provides funds to rebuild. Just as important, insurance provides emotional security; policyholders expect their insurance companies to be trusted partners in the process of coping with losses.”
Co-founded in 1991 by Amy Bach, a consumer advocate and attorney, United Policyholders is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to be a trustworthy and useful information resource for consumers of all types of insurances in all 50 states.
More information about the Essential Protections for Policyholders Project is online at epp.law.rutgers.edu.