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Last updated: December 18. 2013 8:28AM - 565 Views
Margaret Brackett Contributing Columnist



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This week Russ Dubisky, executive director of the South Carolina Insurance News Service, brings insurance information and views to Newberry Notes.


The South Carolina Insurance News Service is a non-profit trade association that represents several property/casualty companies that do business in this state. The News Service mission is to improve South Carolina’s insurance market by providing consumers and member companies with information and resources on relevant issues, said Dubisky.


As executive director, some of my responsibilities include providing information relative to the business of insurance to members of the media and the general public, Dubisky said.


Q: Insurance is a big industry for our state. How does insurance impact our economy?


A: The insurance industry is a vital contributor to this state’s economy. It provides nearly more than 41,000 jobs, pays about $144 million in state premium taxes, and contributes about $3.5 billion to South Carolina’s gross state product.


Collectively, in 2011 companies paid $3.7 billion in property/casualty losses claims to help individuals and businesses recover from losses. By helping businesses, individuals, and families rebound after a disaster or loss, our communities and our economy is more resilient. Unfortunately, South Carolinians are susceptible to many types of natural disasters: fire, hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe weather events. The quicker individuals and businesses can recover from an unexpected event, the better off we all are.


As I said earlier, insurance jobs, which include everything from agents, to adjusters, and underwriters totaled just about 41,400 jobs in South Carolina in 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These jobs accounted for about $2.2 billion in compensation.


Insurance providers also help support a large number of insurance agents and brokers across South Carolina. Insurance agencies represent the entrepreneurial spirit. As these small businesses are located in virtually every community, agents and their employees offer their clients with insurance solutions, protection, and loss-prevention ideas.


The nearly $3.5 billion the industry contributed to the gross state product in 2011 was more than 2 percent of the total.


Q: The legislature is set to convene in January. Is there expected to be any insurance-related legislation that our listeners should be aware of?


A: Some legislation was pre-filed in the House last week, and the pre-filing will continue through next week. While we will closely watch proposals that are introduced this session, there are a couple of other items that are carried over from last session that are still eligible this year.


Most notably, property insurance, especially along the coast, is likely to continue to be a focus area into 2014. S 569, is a bill that would build upon the omnibus reform act that passed in 2007, and brought more competition into the state without subsidizing insurance costs for coastal residents. . We will certainly be monitoring that bill this session.


Another possibility includes electronic proof of automobile insurance, and electronic delivery of insurance information. As insurers, and their customers continue to go “paperless,” many are interested in possibly permitting the electronic delivery of insurance policies.


Q: Are there any other issues that our readers should be made aware of?


A: We’ve recently seen some cold temperatures, and winter is yet to come.


Freezing temperatures can expose homeowners to a number of different risks. Frozen pipes can burst causing thousands of dollars in damage, and the use of supplementary heat sources can increase the risk of fire or injuries.


South Carolina typically sees an increase in residential fires around the start of winter as more and more families try to stay warm using wood stoves, furnaces, space heaters and fireplaces. According to the Insurance Services Office, the average homeowner’s insurance claim for water damage and freezing can total almost $6,000. If no one is home, the price tag for unchecked flooding can go even higher.


We offer the following advice to help protect your home in the winter to help protect your home against fire:


Fireplaces/Space heaters: Make sure you have at least 36-inches of clearance between the heat source and combustible materials such as bedding, furniture, books, and curtains. Also, make sure heaters are turned off when unattended and fires are completely out before you close the damper.


Fire protection equipment: Make sure that smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are in good, working order.


In case of fire, your basic homeowner’s, renter’s or condo insurance policy will cover resulting damage, both from the flames and water used to put out the fire. Check with your insurance agent to make sure you have the proper amount of coverage to repair or replace your structure and personal belongings.


To help prevent frozen plumbing:


Keep the house warm. Set the thermostat for at least 65 degrees, as the temperature inside the walls, where pipes are located, is substantially colder. A lowered thermostat will not keep the pipes from freezing.


Keep slow trickles of water flowing through faucets connected to pipes that run through an unheated or unprotected space. Or, if your house will be unattended for long periods, drain the water system.


Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Ideally, the attic should be five to 10 degrees warmer than the outside air. Well-insulated basements and crawl spaces will also help protect pipes. You might also consider insulating unfinished rooms such as garages to keep pipes from freezing.


Standard homeowners’ policies cover winter-related disasters such as burst pipes, ice damage and wind damage caused by weight of ice or snow.


Readers are encouraged to visit the website at www.SCinsurance.net. Also, your local insurance agent, broker, or company is always a good resource for individuals who have questions about their own insurance.


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