Tag Archives: Insurance

Recreational Drones: Do Homeowners’ Insurance Policies Provide Coverage?

Drone

The rise in recreational uses of drones (more accurately described as Unmanned Aerial Systems or just “UAS”) has sparked much debate, including concerns over safety and privacy. The scenarios are rather simple to envision: Suppose a person insured under a standard homeowners’ insurance policy uses a small camera-equipped UAS, purchased online for less than $1000, and unexpectedly crashes it into a neighbor’s car, or uses it to take pictures of a neighbor’s children playing in their backyard. If the neighbor pursues a claim against the UAS operator for property damage or personal injury, to what extent, if any, is coverage provided by the UAS operator’s homeowners’ insurance policy? This article seeks to answer that question.

Recreational Drone Use has Increased

Years ago when most people thought about a drone or UAS, the image of a large missile-yielding military machine designed to spy on and target national security threats in the Middle East likely came to mind. Now, however, people are becoming more familiar with the small recreational UAS equipment, which uses a four-to-eight blade propeller designed to take off and land vertically while being powered with a small battery and controlled remotely by a handheld device. This growing familiarity is due to the rapid increase in the production and sales of affordable UAS equipment for recreational users. In fact, the Consumer Electronics Association predicted consumer UAS sales will increase almost 50 percent this year (at least 300,000 more sales than last year), according to a January 31, 2015, Forbes article by Gregory S. McNeal, Will Recreational Drone Flying Lead Drone Usage in 2015? The increases are due in large part to rapid technological advances, including the miniaturization of the sensing, localization and control technologies inside UAS, reported Daniel Simmons, in an article titled Attack of the Consumer Drones, published by the website Thrive Detroit on July 7, 2015.

Potential for Bodily and Personal Injury and Property Damage Exists

 

With the rise in popularity, availability, and use of recreational UAS equipment – paired with the FAA’s lenient guidelines – it undoubtedly follows there will likely be an increase in UAS-related accidents. For example, during a TGI Friday’s promotion in December 2014, a drone crashed into a woman’s face, clipping her nose and her chin. The incident made Conner Forrest’s list of the 12 Drone Disasters that Show Why the FAA Hates Drones, published by TechRepublic on March 20, 2015. Another example is the UAS that crashed into the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park in September 2014, which officials feared could endanger the spring. These examples raise the question: To what extent are recreational UAS operators covered by their homeowners’ insurance policies?

Homeowners’ Policies May Cover Recreational UAS Use

The short answer to whether harm caused by the recreational use of a UAS is covered by a standard homeowners’ insurance policy is, “probably yes.” However, as with every insurance coverage issue, the availability of coverage depends on the specific policy’s language – including the grant of coverage, the definitions, the exclusions, the exceptions to the exclusions and other conditions.

The standard homeowners’ policy provides coverage for damages the insured becomes legally obligated to pay because of bodily injury or property damage arising from an occurrence to which the policy applies. See, e.g., Metro. Prop. and Cas. Ins. Co. v. Gilson, No. 09-CV-1874, 2010 WL 2721906, at *1 (D. Ariz. July 7, 2010). Absent extenuating circumstances, there is no doubt this broad grant of coverage initially extends insurance for liability arising from recreational UAS operations. However, this broad coverage may, of course, be limited by policy exclusions.

Most homeowners’ policies exclude liability for injuries or damages arising out of the ownership, maintenance, operation, use, loading, or unloading of “aircraft.” See, e.g., Id.; Aridas v. Royal Ins. Co. of Am., 462 F. Supp. 2d 76, 77 (D. Me. 2006); Hanover Ins. Co. v. Showalter, 561 N.E.2d 1230, 1231 (Ill. App. Ct. 1990); Tucker v. Allstate Tex. Lloyds Ins. Co., 180 S.W.3d 880, 884 (Tex. App. 2005). The critical question of whether harm caused by a recreational UAS operation is covered under a standard homeowners’ policy depends on how the term “aircraft” is defined. Our research reveals that at least some homeowners’ policies define “aircraft” as “any device used or designed for flight, except model or hobby aircraft not used or designed to carry people or cargo.” See, e.g., Tucker, 180 S.W.3d at 884. To the extent a UAS operator’s homeowners’ policy includes this definition, or some similar variation, harm caused by an insured’s UAS is likely covered because a UAS will probably be deemed “a model or hobby aircraft not used or designed to carry people or cargo.”

It is also important to recognize that most homeowners’ policies exclude coverage for business activities. Hence, most homeowners’ insurance policies will not provide coverage for harm associated with commercial use of UAS equipment, at least according to Andrew Amato in a June 2014 article published by DroneLife titled Does Your Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Your Drone?

The line between recreational and business uses may not always be crystal clear, but insureds who receive compensation for their UAS use will probably jeopardize their homeowners’ coverage. For example, taking photographs with a UAS for personal use is likely considered recreational. Conversely, taking photos for a realty listing for a fee or as a part of a part time real estate brokerage business is not likely considered recreational.

Invasion of Privacy Claims and Your Homeowners’ Insurance Policy

Another major concern with emerging recreational UAS operations is privacy because cameras are often attached to most UAS equipment. Simple precautions, such as gaining consent before filming, can avoid breaching someone’s reasonable expectation of privacy, writes Chris Proudlove in Unmanned Aviation Risk Management, Accident Prevention and Insurance. However, not all recreational uses will be conducted in a responsible and ethical manner, and there will undoubtedly be invasion of privacy claims against UAS operators in the future.

Some homeowners’ policies may provide coverage for invasion of privacy claims resulting from the UAS operations. Coverage should be available if the policy includes liability for “personal injury,” normally defined as injuries due to false arrest, detention, malicious prosecution, libel, slander and invasion of privacy, according to Rough Notes, Policy Form & Manual Analysis,§420.4-3 (2004). If initial coverage is established, an insurer must look to see if any exclusions apply, most notably the aircraft and intentional act exclusions.

A potential coverage issue that might arise in UAS-related invasion of privacy claims is whether the intentional act exclusion applies. Most homeowners’ policies, in some variation or another, exclude coverage for injuries expected or intended by the insured. See, e.g., W. Protectors Ins. Co. v. Shaffer, 624 F. Supp. 2d 1292, 1295 (W.D. Wash. 2009); Bailer v. Erie Ins. Exch., 687 A.2d 1375, 1378 (Md. 1997). An insurer might argue that the alleged invasion of privacy with a UAS was an intentional act by the insured, as opposed to negligent, and thus, there is no coverage. This argument’s success depends, in large part, on the insured’s specific conduct, the language of the “personal injury” coverage grant, the intentional acts exclusion, and the elements necessary to sustain an invasion of privacy claim.

Some jurisdictions, such as Washington, recognize invasion of privacy claims as purely an intentional tort. W. Protectors Ins. Co.,624 F. Supp. 2d at 1301. In these jurisdictions, the grant of coverage for invasion of privacy, an intentional tort, would directly contradict the exclusion for intentional acts. Courts have determined the coverage grant trumps the exclusionary language and find coverage in the insured’s favor. On the other hand, if the jurisdiction recognizes invasion of privacy claims in other forms, such as negligence, and the complaint alleges an intentional act, then an insurer might be able to avoid coverage because the grant of coverage would not be illusory as the policy would cover negligent invasion of privacy while excluding intentional invasions of privacy. See Bailer, 687 A.2d at 1381.

Given the increase in recreational UAS operations, there will be an increase in claims against UAS operators for accidents that cause both bodily and personal injury, as well as property damage. We predict that – in the near term – insurers will see a significant increase in recreational UAS operators seeking coverage under existing homeowners’ insurance policies. Insurers of UAS operators should familiarize themselves with their policy’s exclusions and see if their policies include an exception from the definition of “aircraft” for any model or hobby machines that fly. They should also evaluate their exclusion for commercial operations and intentional torts – to see if they apply to their insureds’ UAS operations.

Tom Schrimpf is a partner with Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP. He focuses his practice on insurance coverage and commercial litigation. He has prosecuted and defended insurance coverage litigation related to all types of commercial and personal claims, D&O and professional liability. Contact Schrimpf at tschrimpf@hinshawlaw.com.

Russ Klingaman is a partner with Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP and immediate past-president of the Lawyer-Pilots Bar Association. He focuses his practice on aviation law, commercial litigation, insurance coverage, insurance defense, intellectual property and product liability. He leads the firm’s national Aviation Law Team. Klingaman can be reached at rklingaman@hinshawlaw.com.

How to bust an ICE Dam

Frigid

ICE Dam Busters Stopping ice dams is simple, in principle: Just keep the entire roof the same temperature as the eaves. You do that by increasing ventilation, adding insulation, and sealing off every possible air leak that might warm the underside of the roof. By taking care of these trouble spots, listed here in order of priority, you should enjoy a winter free of dams and use less energy to boot.

1. Ventilate Eaves And Ridge A ridge vent paired with continuous soffit vents circulates cold air under the entire roof. Both ridge and soffit vents should have the same size openings and provide at least 1 square foot of opening for every 300 square feet of attic floor. Place baffles at the eaves to maintain a clear path for the airflow from the soffit vents.

2. Cap the Hatch An unsealed attic hatch or whole-house fan is a massive opening for heat to escape. Cover them with weatherstripped caps made from foil-faced foam board held together with aluminum tape.

3. Exhaust to the Outside Make sure that the ducts connected to the kitchen, bathroom, and dryer vents all lead outdoors through either the roof or walls, but never through the soffit.

4. Add Insulation More insulation on the attic floor keeps the heat where it belongs. To find how much insulation your attic needs, check with your local building department.

5. Install Sealed Can Lights Old-style recessed lights give off great plumes of heat and can’t be insulated without creating a fire hazard. Replace them with sealed “IC” fixtures, which can be covered with insulation.

6. Flash Around Chimneys Bridge the gap between chimney and house framing with L-shaped steel flashing held in place with unbroken beads of a fire-stop sealant. Using canned spray foam or insulation isn’t fire safe.

7. Seal and Insulate Ducts Spread fiber-reinforced mastic on the joints of HVAC ducts and exhaust ducts. Cover them entirely with R-5 or R-6 foil-faced fiberglass.

8. Caulk Penetrations Seal around electrical cables and vent pipes with a fire-stop sealant. Also, look for any spots where light shines up from below or the insulation is stained black by the dirt from passing air.

Holiday Happenings at GWB Insurance!

Blog Wreath  Toys for Tots

Over the past few weeks the staff at G.W.B. Insurance has gotten into the holiday spirit.  Also our staff has shown their charitable side by collecting toys and gifts for those families in need for the annual Toys for Tots program. We also were proud to sponsor a family through the Children’s Friend Foundation.   On behalf of all the staff members we wish all our customers and the community a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!

Thanksgiving Safety Tips

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The kitchen is the heart of the home, especially at Thanksgiving. Kids love to be involved in holiday preparations. Safety in the kitchen is important, especially on Thanksgiving Day when there is a lot of activity and people at home.

Thanksgiving by the numbers
  • In 2013, Thanksgiving Day (November 28) was the leading date for home cooking fires with 1,550, 230% above the average number of fires per day.
  • Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
  • Unattended cooking was by far the leading contributing factor in cooking fires and fire deaths.
  • Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home structure fires and associated civilian injuries and was the third leading cause of home fire deaths.
Safety tips
  • Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food.
  • Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.
  • Keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot and kids should stay 3 feet away.
  • Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.
  • Keep the floor clear so you don’t trip over kids, toys, pocketbooks or bags.
  • Keep knives out of the reach of children.
  • Be sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.
  • Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children — up high in a locked cabinet.
  • Never leave children alone in room with a lit candle.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.

Halloween Health and Safety Tips

Going trick-or-treating?

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Swords, knives, and other costume accessories should be short, soft, and flexible.

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Avoid trick-or-treating alone. Walk in groups or with a trusted adult.

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Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you.

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Examine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before eating them. Limit the amount of treats you eat.

 

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Hold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help you see and others see you. WALK and don’t run from house to house.

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Always test make-up in a small area first. Remove it before bedtime to prevent possible skin and eye irritation.

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Look both ways before crossing the street. Use crosswalks wherever possible.

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Lower your risk for serious eye injury by not wearing decorative contact lenses.External Web Site Icon

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Only walk on sidewalks whenever possible, or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.

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Wear well-fitting masks, costumes, and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips, and falls.

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Eat only factory-wrapped treats. Avoid eating homemade treats made by strangers.

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Enter homes only if you’re with a trusted adult. Only visit well-lit houses. Never accept rides from strangers.

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Never walk near lit candles or luminaries. Be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.

Expecting trick-or-treaters or party guests?

Follow these tips to help make the festivities fun and safe for everyone:

  • Provide healthier treats for trick-or-treaters such as low-calorie treats and drinks. For guests, offer a variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • Use party games and trick-or-treat time as an opportunity for kids to get their daily dose of 60 minutes of physical activity.
  • Be sure walking areas and stairs are well-lit and free of obstacles that could cause someone to fall.
  • Keep candle-lit jack o’lanterns and luminaries away from doorsteps, walkways, landings, and curtains. Place them on sturdy tables, keep them out of the reach of pets and small children, and never leave them unattended.
  • Remind drivers to watch out for trick-or-treaters and to drive safely.

Paula Demelo- New Personal Lines Account Manager

 

 

Paula DeMelo

Paula DeMelo

As the seasons change exciting things are happening at Gardiner, Whiteley and Boardman Insurance!

As we continue to transition and move our agency forward, we are continually striving to make our service and overall customer experience even better than before.

I would like to announce that Paula Demelo joins us as a Personal Lines Account Manager. With over ten years of industry experience Paula  has vast experience putting insurance programs in place for local consumers.

Paula will be responsible for servicing existing Personal Lines customers and working with new prospects to provide comprehensive insurance programs. Paula is a longtime resident of Pawtucket who has recently settled in East Providence.

Paula can be reached at 401-726-3330 extension 222 or at Paula@GWBInsurance.com

Top 10 Insurance Myths

The Top 10 Insurance Myths

What you thought you knew about insurance, but didn't.

Insurance is something that nearly everyone purchases. Whether you own a car or carry health insurance through your company, it’s likely you’ve interacted with an underwriting agency at one time or another. Insurance is sometimes misunderstood, and it can be a complicated topic.

It is important to be educated about the different types of insurance out there, but sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish the truth from myths. Here are a few common myths we hear all the time:


#1 – “I don’t have that much stuff, so I don’t need renter’s insurance.”

A lot of people think that they don’t have enough stuff to make buying renters insurance worth it. Go around your apartment or rental home and take stock of all your items, including furniture, appliances, electronics, clothing, towels, and more. Everything should be counted, even the food in your kitchen. After you do this, you’ll probably be surprised at just how much you could lose in the event of a natural disaster, fire, or theft. Even if you don’t own very expensive items, you can get back on your feet faster when you have renters insurance to compensate for your losses.


#2 – “Only rich people need umbrella insurance.”

Many people believe that umbrella insurance is only for the wealthy, as it gives significant coverage (usually over $1 million) for liability lawsuits. Umbrella insurance adds additional liability coverage to existing policies, such as auto or home insurance. The fact is, anyone can face a liability lawsuit, but not everyone has enough insurance to pay for one. If you’re legally responsible for someone’s losses, injuries or death, there’s a chance you could be sued for more money than a standard insurance policy will cover. Umbrella insurance is a cushion everyone can use to get peace of mind when the worst happens.


#3 – “I’m a homemaker, so life insurance won’t benefit my family.”

Life insurance is a dynamic product that can help support the entire family, not just those who earn money. A life insurance policy can help cover the costs from a lost salary, childcare, food, transportation, housekeeping, mortgage payments and more. When you buy life insurance, you can be sure that your family continues on with a similar standard of living.


#4 – “Obamacare means I can’t keep seeing my current doctor.”

Many people think that when the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) goes into effect, they will no longer be able to see their current doctor or other medical provider. This is simply not true in most cases. If you are receiving health insurance through an employer already, you won’t really see any changes to your insurance coverage. If you are purchasing a new plan, you may need to find a plan that will have your current doctor in-network. With all the plans available, it is very likely that your current provider is covered under one of them. You can even ask your doctor or medical provider what insurances they accept to help you choose. This is also a place where an independent insurance agent can be helpful, as they work with several insurance companies and can shop around to help you find the coverage you want.


#5 – “I don’t need flood insurance if I don’t live near the water.”

Flood insurance is not required in some areas, so you may believe that don’t need this protection if you don’t live near a body of water. Even if you don’t live in a flood plan, it’s a good idea to carry flood insurance. Flooding can happen anywhere, whether you live on the ocean or in the desert. Things like hurricanes, strong rains, or problems with water systems can cause flooding, no matter if you live near a large body of water or not.


#6 – “A red car will cost more to insure.”

No one knows exactly how this myth started, although it may be due to the bright color of red cars standing out in traffic. It could also be that scientists have proved that color has a direct effect on mood. The truth of the matter is that owning and insuring a red car will not cost you any more then insuring a blue or green car. What is going to affect your auto insurance premium is your driving history, the age of your vehicle, and the make and model of your car.


#7 – “Disability insurance isn’t necessary, because Social Security will pay me.”

While Social Security can help people who are disabled, it may not be able to meet all of your needs. There are also strict qualifications to meet before you can receive disability benefits through Social Security. This is why disability is so important. Disability insurance can be used for long-term or short-term disability, unlike Social Security, and it will kick in immediately after you become disabled to replace lost income.


#8 – “I’m young and healthy, I don’t need health insurance.”

People who are young and without serious health problems may not prioritize health insurance coverage. While you may not need many aspects of health insurance coverage, like prescription coverage or maternity care, you should still consider carrying a basic health insurance plan. This will protect you from outrageous costs if you happen to have an accident or get diagnosed with a serious illness.


#9 – “Long term care insurance is only for the elderly.”

Most people think that long term care insurance only covers nursing home expenses for the elderly. However, it can also very beneficial for younger people. It can help to cover costs from an accident, if you need rehabilitation. It can also help cover the cost of an illness that puts you out of work for a long time. Purchasing long term care insurance can help you save money, even if you have a good health insurance plan.


#10 – “If I have homeowners insurance, all my belongings are covered automatically.”

Some homeowners assume that their homeowners insurance covers the entire house and everything in it. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. You may need to go through a process called “scheduling” to get all your items covered – which typically requires an inventory and description of all the items you own. Higher-value items, like electronics and appliances, will need to have the serial number included. To ensure you get reimbursed for your losses, keep an ongoing list of all your belongings. Take pictures of your things and remember to include details like serial numbers or receipts when you go through the scheduling process with your insurance company.

These are just a few of the most common myths related to different types of insurance. To be fully protected from life’s unexpected surprises, use insurance to your advantage and stay educated about the truths and myths surrounding it.

6 More Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Visit the School

When visiting the school, walk or ride the route your child will take. Speak to your child about talking to strangers, and observe along the route any areas in which your child must exercise caution.

Look for the school patrols, crossing guard, or police officers on the streets near the school. Find out the school’s policy for early arrivals, and if needed, organize with other parents to have adults stationed outside the school to watch the children until the school allows them to enter.

Introduce Yourself

Back to School LogoFind out the school’s entrance procedure before visiting your child’s classroom, and how his/her teacher prefers to be contacted.

Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher. Ask the teacher the times he/she is available to talk to parents.

Volunteer

Now that you know the teacher of your child, offer to help with class trips or with school activities. Are more books needed in the library? Offer to hold a book drive or find a company that will donate books.

Does the teacher need assistance with particular projects in the school? If time permits, offer to be a classroom parent or to organize other parents to help in the classroom or at the school. If you can’t make it to the classroom during school hours, ask if there are things you can do from home or on the weekends that would be helpful.

Afterschool and Extracurricular Activities

If the school offers afterschool and/or extra-curricular activities, find out ways you can assist. If the budget restricts afterschool activities, find ways you or members in the community could assist. 

Make Homework a Priority

Make homework time a daily habit. Find a quiet and consistent place at home where your child can complete his or her homework.

If your child is having difficulty with his or her homework, make an appointment with the teacher to discuss his or her difficulty. Check with the counselor and the teacher about tutors to get your child help if needed.

Take Charge of TV

Limit the time that you let your child watch TV. Too much television cuts into important activities in a child’s life, such as reading, playing with friends, and talking with family members.

When your child is watching TV, watch with him or her when you can. Talk together about what you see. Try to point out the things in TV programs that are like your child’s everyday life.

When you can’t watch TV with your child, spot check to see what he or she is watching. Ask questions after the show ends. See what excites him and what troubles him. Find out what he has learned and remembered.