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Peerless Insurance - Purchasing Insurance From Nonadmitted Carrier

Peerless Insurance

There is a reason why one of an insurance agent's most essential functions is to place coverages on behalf of their customers with insurers that are financially strong. This is because the amounts typically available in the event of insurer insolvency under the various states' insurance guaranty funds may be less than the loss exposures of many insureds.

State laws exist that require warnings to the insurance purchaser of the risks involved in purchasing insurance from a nonadmitted carrier. However, few, if any, brokers involved in the sale of such policies generally warn of or explain these risks and the trade-offs involved to their customers adequately. This is particularly true in the personal auto liability coverage context, where these abuses are most prominent.

A far too common circumstance, particularly in major urban areas, with large numbers of substandard risk insureds, is for high-volume brokers to run mass-marketed commercials, promising to be able to provide auto insurance to anyone, and at great savings. Such mass marketers of insurance olken emphasize that coverage can be available for low down payments, and low monthly payments. 

These representations are often highly deceptive. Such operations often sell ridiculously expensive, low-limits policies, often issued by nonadmitted insurers. Rarely do such operations inform their customers of their state's assigned risk programs, which, if applicable, usually provide better coverage than that from a nonadmitted insurer.

Unfortunately, the fact is that while certain high-risk insureds may need to consider purchasing insurance from nonadmitted insurers, these insureds are usually commercial insureds with higher exposure to risk and loss histories - individually or as an industry classification. This leaves them perceived as high-risk from an underwriting standpoint. The average personal auto or homeowners insured should rarely be in such a position.

Other disadvantages exist using a nonadmitted insurer. Nonadmitred insurers prey on persons who have been advised that they are substandard risks, particularly in the personal auto context. The claims service offered by nonadmitted insurers is generally poor or nonexistent. They offer and sell policies that are often apparently cheap (compared with the premiums that would be charged by an admitted insurer) and they let the insured nominally satisfy their state's financial responsibility/proof of insurance laws. However, their promises are often functionally smoke and mirrors.

An insurer that does not pay claims promptly or does not step in and defend an unsured when he or she has been sued has given none of the protections expected by someone who has purchased an insurance policy. It does you little good when you are faced with a lawsuit resulting from an accident to find yourself having to fight a two-front war - one against the person suing you and a second against your insurer to obtain the coverage that you paid for.

Brokers that routinely place personal lines policies with nonadmitted carriers may argue that they are saving their customers money. These claims are usually illusory. In most cases, however, the premium savings do not offset the risks of an uncovered loss in the event of insolvency of the insurer, or in the case of a nonadmitted insurer simply failing to observe its policy obligations. Many nonadmitted insurers are domiciled outside the United States, making suing them and recovering an uncertain proposition.

There is almost never any need for an individual or a family to turn to a surplus lines/nonadmitted insurer for personal auto or homeowners insurance. Many states have what are called alternative market mechanisms.

Examples of such alternative market mechanisms are automobile assigned risk plans, and FAIR plans. (FAIR refers to fair access to insurance requirements, under the plan established under the California Insurance Code.)

Under such plans, all admitted insurers writing automobile or property insurance are required to participate or fund these plans. In the case of most assigned risk auto insurance plans, when a person qualifies (usually by virtue of proof of refusal to issue a policy by a certain minimum number of insurers), he or she is assigned to an insurer that must issue a policy. This is subject to such policy limit and premium limitations as may be established by the plan.

Nonetheless, the ability to purchase a policy through an assigned risk plan guarantees that an individual is going to be able to obtain coverage from a standard lines admitted carrier. Assigned risk plan policies are more expensive, but the insured has the security of coverage with an admitted insurer. 

If the policyholder cleans up his or her loss, violation, or infraction history, he or she can eventually purchase coverage in the standard insurance markets and will no longer need to rely on coverage through an assigned risk plan.

FAIR plans ate alternative market mechanisms for hard-to-place homeowners or other property insurance polices. These are used in areas such as Southern California, urban areas that are underserved by standard lines insurance markets, and other areas that are considered higher than normal risk (such as homes located in and near brush areas). Again, the issuers of policies offered through these types of programs are entitled to charge premiums that reflect the increased risk assumed. 

However, for most persons, policies procured through such plans are preferable to policies from nonadmitted insurers. This is due to the protections afforded by the fact that these policies are covered by each state's insurance guaranty funds and because of better and more reliable claims service. 

So, do you have a better understand about insurance after reading the details? Next post, we'll talk about Guaranty Funds. To learn more about insurance, you can get Secrets of Insurance online and have it delivered to you right away!