Tracking phones: Insurers deny claims based on doubtful data

By Dave Collins

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

HARTFORD, Conn. _ It took Jaclyn Bentley nearly three years to prove she didn’t burn her house down for the insurance money, allegations she and her lawyer say were born of the junk practice of analyzing cellphone tower data.

She was camping with her husband and co-workers at least 17 miles from her Iowa home in May 2014 when it burned down, she says. An investigator for State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. said cell tower data showed Bentley’s phone was 5 to 12 miles from the campsite in the direction of her home just after the fire was reported the suggestion being she could have been heading back to camp after starting the blaze.

Her claim was denied, and she was arrested on arson and insurance fraud charges. But she was acquitted after questioning State Farm’s analysis of the tower data, and she has a lawsuit pending against the company for failing to pay her claim.

Despite acquittals like Bentley’s and expert testimony that cellphone tower data should not be used to pinpoint people’s locations, insurance companies continue to use the information to deny claims by casting doubt that customers were where they said they were. The problem, experts say, is that a cellphone can be up to 20 miles away when it “pings,” or connects with, a tower.

“I’ve gone through … hell,” said Bentley, 37, of Clinton, Iowa, who cares for people with brain injuries and mental illness. “It’s ridiculous what happened. You’re innocent until proven guilty. I’ve never felt like I was treated like I was innocent. As far as the insurance company was concerned, I was guilty.”

State Farm does not comment on pending litigation or specific claims, spokesman Justin Tomczak said.

“We handle each claim on its merits and conduct a diligent investigation to determine what we owe under the policy,” he said. “That work can include many things, including phone records, that become pertinent to completing our investigation. While I cannot comment on a specific claim, I can tell you that we rarely obtain phone records.”

The records can be obtained only by a court order or a customer’s consent.

A private investigator, Tim Wilcox, chief executive of International Investigators Inc. in Indianapolis, said he believes cell tower data analysis can be fairly accurate in tracking someone’s movements, within a half-mile. He said the information is just one of many pieces of evidence needed for a strong fraud case.

Michael Cherry has testified in successful cases to free people who were imprisoned based in part on cell tower evidence. Among the early design team members of the Apollo 11 moon trip, Cherry is now chief executive of Cherry Biometrics, a computer and cellphone data analysis firm in Falls Church, Virginia.

Phones can be miles away when they ping towers, Cherry said, because calls are not simply routed to the nearest cell tower or the cell tower with the strongest signal. Rather, a number of factors decide which tower handles the call, including which has the clearest signal and is the most cost-effective, he said.

“They’re misinterpreting it, and it’s not very reliable to begin with,” said Cherry, who played no role in Bentley’s case.

Bentley, who spent three days in jail _ including her birthday _ after being arrested, said the insurance company claimed cellphones can be only up to 3 or 4 miles away when they ping towers. But she was able to disprove that claim with her cellphone records.

Hours after the fire was out and she had returned to the campground, she checked her voicemail and her phone pinged a tower near the campground. A few minutes later, her mother called her, and her phone pinged a tower back in Clinton, 17 miles away. Minutes later, her husband called her, and her phone pinged a tower about 20 miles away, she said.

That information, she believes, resulted in the not guilty verdict.

A couple Cherry is helping, Monica and Ali Almazni of Perris, California, are facing trial next month on insurance fraud charges, stemming from the theft of their car in 2013. Their insurer, Progressive, said that before the car was reported stolen, the Almaznis’ cellphones pinged a tower near where the car was later found.

The Almaznis say that Progressive’s take on the cellphone data is wrong, and that they didn’t stage the theft to get the insurance money. Cherry said the couple could have been where they said they were  Ali Almazni at a mall where the car was stolen and his wife at home based on the tower information.

Jeff Sibel, a spokesman for Progressive, said the company collects a variety of information when investigating insurance claims. He said he would check into the Almaznis’ case and provide a response, but did not follow up with The Associated Press.

Another California couple, Linda and Eric Norwood, of Hemet, said they gave up on pursuing an insurance claim for their stolen pickup after State Farm used cell tower information to insinuate they were involved. They said they couldn’t afford a lawyer to try to fight State Farm, and no criminal charges were filed against them.

Tomczak, the State Farm spokesman, declined to discuss the case.

Law firms from around the world launch new insurance law network

Four law firms from across Europe and North America have launched a new multi-jurisdiction legal network to provide a global service to insurance clients.

The Insurance Law Global (ILG) network is made up of founding law firms from the UK, Spain, Canada and the USA. The firms will collaborate on a non-exclusive basis to help clients respond to the challenges presented by globalisation and the increasingly dynamic political and environmental landscape.

In the UK, the network is represented by leading law firm Weightmans, which will work alongside fellow founders Blaney McMurtry of Canada, Spanish firm LC Rodrigo Abogados and the USA’s Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin.

Collectively ILG has bases in 30 cities across six countries.

ILG was launched at a conference in London last week, which brought together delegates from the UK insurance sector and representatives of the founding firms. ILG discussed the emerging issues affecting global insurance claims, including cyber threats, the impact of climate change on catastrophic loss and the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to transform the claims process.

The formation of the network was led by Weightmans. Dan Cutts, Senior Partner at the firm said: “The legal services market – and the way in which our clients need us to work – is changing. By bringing together law firms with exceptional pedigree and experience in the global insurance market, we are formalising a collaborative approach to respond to the challenge. Our partnerships will ensure we can continue to deliver legal support to our insurer clients in an increasingly globalised environment.”

Maria Scarfo, Managing Partner of Blaney McMurtry in Toronto, Canada, says “We are very proud to be a founding member of the Insurance Law Global network, an organization created to meet the increasingly diverse needs of the global insurance industry and to foster collaboration and knowledge sharing across multiple jurisdictions.” Maria Scarfo adds, “As the needs of clients become more complex, our network of leading insurance law firms will help to ensure that they continue to receive the consistent, high quality expertise and service they have come to expect, wherever their business takes them.”

For more information about ILG, please email info@insurancelawglobal.com.

SOURCE Insurance Law Global

Banks and Insurance Companies Announce Canadian Business Growth Fund of up to $1B

Canada’s leading banks and insurance companies today announced their intent to create a fund to invest up to $1 billion in Canadian businesses over the next decade to bolster growth and innovation.

The Canadian Business Growth Fund will make investments in small- and medium-sized Canadian companies seeking long-term, patient, minority capital to finance continued growth and to allow the scaling up of existing operations. Typical investment amounts in each company will range between $3 million and $20 million. Importantly, the fund will facilitate mentorship and access to talent pools to help these businesses achieve their full potential.

The fund is expected to have initial capital commitments of over $500 million, with the possibility for future contributions of up to $1 billion in future years, depending upon both demand for investment and the fund’s performance. Initial participants include: BMO Financial Group, CIBC, Royal Bank of Canada, Scotiabank, The Toronto-Dominion Bank, Manulife, Sun Life Financial, Great-West Life, National Bank of Canada, HSBC Bank Canada, ATB Financial, Laurentian Bank of Canada, and Canadian Western Bank. Other institutions are considering involvement and a broad range of financial institutions will be able to invest in the fund when it is formed.

The fund will operate as an independently managed entity, supported by its investors with its own board of directors and management team, with an objective of having offices and personnel across Canada. The board will be comprised of independent directors and representatives from the initial investors. The Fund will begin a search for an independent chair, along with a chief executive officer, with the intention to have an executive team in place to start deploying capital within the next 12 months.

The executive team will also be tasked with developing an advisory network to provide mentorship, thereby closing some of the knowledge gaps preventing many mid-sized companies from achieving their full growth potential at home and globally. The aim is to help business founders maintain effective control of their companies to execute on their vision as they grow and expand.

This announcement follows the publication of the second report from the Minister of Finance’s Advisory Council for Economic Growth, which identified a gap in the Canadian market for long-term capital and recommended the creation of a private sector-led growth fund for minority equity stakes in companies. One of the goals of the Fund is to ultimately help Canadian companies grow outside of Canada, creating a vibrant, innovative and diversified economy that will spur the creation of jobs and growth for our country.

A further announcement will be made in due course.

BGF Board Representatives: ATB Financial – Curtis Stange, Bank of MontrealNadim Hirji, Scotiabank – Philip Smith, CIBC – Stephen Forbes, Manulife – Vipon Ghai, National Bank of CanadaMark Mulroney, Royal Bank of CanadaJamie Anderson, Toronto-Dominion Bank – Barbara Hooper.

SOURCE CIBC – Corporate

For further information: For media inquiries: ATB Financial, Glenn Kubish, GKubish@atb.com, 780-408-6529; BMO Financial Group, Ralph Marranca, Ralph.Marranca@bmo.com, 416-867-3996; Canadian Western Bank, Matt Evans, Matt.Evans@cwbank.com, 780-405-0198; CIBC, Caroline Van Hasselt, Caroline.VanHasselt@cibc.com, 416-784-6699; Great-West Life, Tim Oracheski, Tim.Oracheski@gwl.ca, 204-946-8961; HSBC Bank Canada, Sharon Wilks, Sharon_Wilks@hsbc.ca, 416-868-3878; Laurentian Bank of Canada, Louise Bergeron, Louise.Bergeron@BanqueLaurentienne.ca, 514-284-4500 ext : 4840; Manulife, Sean B. Pasternak, Sean_Pasternak@manulife.com, 416 852-2745 ext: 222745; National Bank of Canada, Claude Breton, Claude.Breton@bnc.ca, 514 394-8644; Royal Bank of Canada, Paul French, Paul.French@rbc.com, 416-974-3718; Scotiabank, Heather Armstrong, Heather.Armstrong@scotiabank.com, 416-933-3250; Sun Life Financial, Catherine Melville, Catherine.Melville@sunlife.com, 416-408-7826; The Toronto-Dominion Bank, Maria Saros, Maria.Saros@td.com, 416-983-4093

B.C. lawyer says pet insurance not worth the cost

Excerpted article was written By Anne Drewa | Global News

When it comes to buying pet insurance and dealing with unexpected medical costs, critics argue you are better off self-insuring.

“I don’t believe in pet insurance because I have seen so many clients who have been on the spectrum of the gamut of people who do not benefit from pet insurance,”  said Victoria Shroff, a lawyer who specializes in pet litigation and an adjunct law professor at UBC.

Shroff has been practising animal law for close to 20 years and has witnessed clients let down by their pet insurance policies.

“It’s there for you when the sun is shining, the umbrellas are handed to you, but when it rains the umbrellas are taken away,” she said.

“That’s the same situation with pet insurance. People think they’ve got coverage, they go in and they need something done urgently with their animal, particularly older animals, and they’ll find – sorry, preexisting condition. We can’t cover you.”

Instead, Schroff recommends setting aside money every month for a  pet emergency.

“Have a specific savings account that you set aside for your animals. Put down $50 to $80 away per month per pet.”

Still, the BC SPCA recommends pet insurance.

“It can help your animal get better care faster and with less stress for you,” Dr. Emilia Gordon of the BC SPCA said. “Typically exclusions fall under a couple of categories. Many times preexisting conditions are excluded. Sometimes breed-related issues are excluded and sometimes it’s for a certain period and sometimes it’s for life.”

When choosing a policy, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association recommends pet owners ask the following questions:

  • Does the policy cover genetic conditions?
  • What percentage of fees will be reimbursed?
  • Does the policy cover vaccines?
  • What is the deductible?
  • Do your premiums change as your pet ages?

Gordon said consumers should read the fine print of any policy and consult with a veterinarian to help sort through the details. Policies are diverse and monthly premiums and deductibles can vary.

Economical commits $110,500 to the fight against cancer

Today, more than 60 per cent of Canadians diagnosed with cancer will survive compared with only 25 per cent in the 1940s. While tremendous progress is being made against the disease, overall cancer cases are increasing because of Canada’s aging and growing population. Much more work needs to be done.

To fund this work, the Canadian Cancer Society hosts Relay For Life events across the country. At these six to 12-hour events, teams of friends, family and colleagues join together to celebrate survivors, honour those lost and commit to raising funds to fight all types of cancer.

People can participate in these events at any age or fitness level. Every step taken at Relay For Life helps fund promising cancer research, community support services and other important work so that fewer Canadians are touched by the disease.

Economical Insurance is proud to once again support the Canadian Cancer Society in 2017 with $110,500 in presenting event sponsorships of 10 Relay For Life events in OntarioWoodstock, two in Waterloo Region, three in the GTA, four in Ottawa in addition to an event at Quartier DIX30 in Brossard, Quebec.

“Corporate sponsorships are essential to the success of our Relay For Life events,” says Lesley Ring, Vice-President, Development and Marketing for the Canadian Cancer Society in Ontario. “We are very thankful to Economical Insurance and its employees for generously supporting us for the past 12 years.”

“Relay For Life is our largest fundraising initiative of the year,” says Suzanne Dubois, Executive Director of the Canadian Cancer Society in Quebec. “Every dollar raised from these events helps the Canadian Cancer Society have more impact against more cancers in more communities across Canada. Our donors are helping researchers discover life-saving treatments and providing support programs to those living with cancer.”

This year, more than 400 Relay For Life events are being held across Canada. Since 1999, Relay For Life has raised more than $500 million in Canada for cancer research and support programs.

“At Economical, we have proudly sponsored Relay For Life events since 2006,” said Rowan Saunders, President and Chief Executive Officer of Economical Insurance. “This year, we continue to invest our sponsorship commitment toward the cancer cause. It is exciting to have four university events on the list of those we sponsor, allowing us to connect with a new demographic. Funds raised at Relay For Life, enable the Canadian Cancer Society to take a comprehensive approach to fight all type of cancer through research, prevention and advocacy activities, and support services for patients and their families.”

Cancer changes everything. So can you. Join Economical Insurance and its employees by registering for a Relay For Life event. Learn more at relayforlife.ca

About Economical Insurance
Founded in 1871, Economical is one of Canada’s leading property and casualty insurers, with $2.0 billion in premiums during 2016 and $5.4 billion in assets as at December 31, 2016. Based in Waterloo, this Canadian-owned and operated company services the insurance needs of more than one million customers across the country. Economical conducts business under the following brands: Economical Insurance, Economical, Western General, Economical Select, Perth Insurance, Sonnet, Petsecure, Economical Financial, and Family Insurance Solutions.

SOURCE Economical Insurance

Get the lowdown on the specific types of insurance you need to protect your import/export business

Get the lowdown on the specific types of insurance you need to protect your import/export business

The Staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc.

Insuring your employees

Once you hire employees, you’ll need to think about caring for them. Workers’ compensation insurance laws vary among states; check with your insurance agent for details in your area. Workers’ comp covers you for any illness or injury your employees might incur on the job. If your employees work in your home office and get injured there, your homeowners’ insurance may refuse to pay on the grounds that it’s actually a workers’ comp case. Check with your insurance agent regarding what you need, then make an informed decision.

Export credit risk insurance

Thanks to the Export-Import Bank of the United States, you can purchase several types of export credit risk insurance designed specifically for the newbie exporter and small- to mid-sized enterprises. These policies protect you in the event that your foreign buyer decides not to pay you for either commercial or political reason. The Ex-Im Bank (and the United States) hope policies such as these will encourage both you and your financial institution to take on higher-risk foreign markets.

Your menu options at Ex-Im are the following:

Small-business policy. This multibuyer policy requires that you insure all your export credit sales with Ex-Im; it’s designed to free you from the “first-loss” deductible of most commercial policies. To take advantage, you must have an export credit sales volume of less than $5 million in the past three years before application, your company must qualify as a small business under the Small Business Administration’s definition of the term and you must have been in business at least one year with a positive net worth. How do you find out if you qualify? Call the SBA’s Office of Size Standards at (800) 827-5722, or check its website.

Umbrella policy. This policy boasts the same coverage and eligibility as the small-business policy above, but it allows you as an export management company or export trading company to act as an adminis­trator or intermediary between Ex-Im and your clients.

Short-term single-buyer policy. This one, which covers a single or repetitive sale, is for the exporter who doesn’t want to insure everything with Ex-Im. A special reduced premium is offered to small businesses.

Cargo insurance

When it comes to cargo insurance, to mangle a well-known advertising maxim, “Don’t let your merchandise leave home without it.” The cost of the insurance usually runs about 1 percent of the insured value, although this varies with the type of goods and method of shipping.
What do you get for your money? Peace of mind, for one thing, as with all insurance. And, in the event of a cargo misadventure, your insurance coverage should include enough to repay you for not only lost or damaged products but for your extra time and trouble and those lost profits. You’ll want to purchase all-risk insurance, which covers your cargo against everything except man’s inhumanity to man — war, strikes, riots and civil commotion — and inherent vice in the cargo. What is vice, you ask? It refers to any sort of plague or pestilence that might attack your cargo, such as boll weevils in those gorgeous cotton blankets or E. coli on your Texas steaks.

You might also want to consider general average insurance. This protects you in the event of someone else’s cargo loss. Say the ship carrying your containers runs afoul of stormy weather. The captain decides to jettison a portion of the cargo to save the rest, and they dump somebody else’s stuff into the briny deep. Fine, you say. Not quite. According to maritime law, even though your merchandise has made it to port safe and sound, you can’t take possession until you’ve paid for your share of the loss.

Let’s look at another scenario. Say the other party in your transaction has purchased insurance — for example, the exporter who’s shipping to you CIF (cost, insurance and freight) but you’ve got a funny feeling that their coverage isn’t too reliable. Not to worry. You can purchase a contingent policy, which is about half the price of regular insurance and will serve as backup insurance in the event of a catastrophe.

As a newbie trader, your best bet will be to purchase insurance through your freight forwarder, who has a blanket policy, or directly from the air carrier. As you grow, you may wish to purchase a blanket policy of your own, which will cover you for everything you ship over the course of a year.

Avoiding insurance claims
Out on the high seas, your cargo may be subjected to rough and stormy weather. On the docks, it can be equally buffeted about by tough longshoremen. What can you do to help ensure your cargo doesn’t become a marine insurance claim?

1. Pack with dock loading and unloading procedures in mind. Your cargo may be slung around (or skewered) by anything from a forklift to a sling or net, and then, if it survives that, left outdoors to rot. Often, cargo is “stored” on port decks or out on airplane cargo tarmacs, without any covering. If you’re unfamiliar with overseas port operations and don’t have the right packaging, you can lose cargo.

2. Pack to expect Mother Nature’s worst. Container loads can shift during heavy seas and storms. Someone else’s cargo can smash into yours — or vice versa. A sea voyage may be good for a human’s health, but it can be murder on merchandise. Think heat and humidity, salt air (which is incredibly corrosive), rain and sea spray. When any or all of this gets into your containers, you can end up with rust, blistering, mold, mildew and moisture damage.
3. Pack to expect human nature’s worst. Some people just can’t resist somebody else’s goods. Theft can be a problem, especially when containers are left on the docks for a long time.

With all these potential disasters in mind, pack smart. Use adequate packaging materials; make sure your merchandise is cushioned against blows. Waterproof everything possible. Have package exteriors shrink-wrapped. Use waterproof lining on interiors. Coat exposed metal parts on machinery, for example, with grease or some other rust arrester. Use heavy strapping and seals. Discourage theft by eliminating trademarks or content descriptions on container exteriors.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from ILSTV

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest