Coronavirus Pandemic Questions

If my business is forced to close due to the Coronavirus pandemic, am I covered for loss of business income?

No.  Business interruption coverage is specifically designed to work hand-in-hand with the main coverages within the policy.  If you have a covered direct physical loss to the premises such as a fire or wind damage, that forces your business to close then business interruption coverage would apply.  The coverage is not meant, nor is it priced, to cover every possible reason why a business may need to close.

In the case of a pandemic, there is no physical damage to property so coverage would not be triggered.   Also, this type of loss is specifically excluded under all typical small commercial policies, including ours.

To view the exclusion found in your Commercial Property or Businessowners policy, please click here.

If I normally rent my secondary home out during the summer season and I am unable to do so this year because of the Coronavirus, can I file a loss of use claim?

No.  The loss of use coverage provided by your policy is designed to work hand-in-hand with the main coverages of the policy.   If you have a covered direct physical loss, such as a fire, that damages your premises and prevents you from renting it for the season, the Loss of Use coverage would apply.   The coverage is not meant, nor is it priced, to cover every possible reason why you might not be able to rent your property.

Losses arising from infectious diseases do not involve any physical damage to the insured premises so coverage would not be triggered.   Additionally, all standard personal lines policies, like your policy, specifically exclude coverage for losses involving viruses or other pathological agents.

If your policy isn’t handy and you would like to read the applicable terms, please click here.

If I am sued by someone who claims they caught Coronavirus at my place of business or home, am I covered?

No.    There is no third-party coverage for losses arising out of the Coronavirus pandemic or any other loss involving acquisition or transmission of any communicable disease.    These types of risks are excluded under most personal lines and small commercial policies.

If you do not have your policy handy and wish to read the applicable terms, please click here for personal lines or here for commercial lines.

My business/employer had to shut down temporarily due to the pandemic, but my insurance premium is due. Is there anything Farmers can do to help me get through this?

We realize that some Policyholders have been adversely impacted by the government shutdown of their businesses or places of employment.  If your payments were current prior to March 15, 2020 and you are now unable to pay the upcoming amount due on your policy, please click here to open our online contact form.  You will need to provide your policy number, contact information and a brief explanation of your situation.  We will review all hardship requests based on individual circumstances and be as flexible as possible in helping you maintain your coverage.

What is Farmers Insurance Company of Flemington doing to ensure business continuity during the Coronavirus pandemic?

We have taken a number of steps to ensure the health and safety of our employees and our ability to continue to serve our Policyholders.

  • We have cancelled all our scheduled continuing education classes and other group events. We are also asking our outside vendors to refrain from unnecessary visits to our office.
  • We are restricting all business related travel and minimizing in-person interactions with the public to the extent possible.
  • We are installing hand sanitizer dispensers at all entrances to our facility as well as in key areas of the building such as near dining areas and conference rooms.
  • We provide our employees with a generous sick leave program and we have asked any employee who exhibits symptoms to report them immediately and to refrain from coming to work.
  • We are making arrangements for telecommuting for those on our staff who have medical issues that might make them more vulnerable to the virus. For employees whose jobs require their physical presence in the office, we are practicing social distancing and encouraging proper hand-washing and sanitary procedures.
  • Our cleaning staff is intensifying their daily cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces within the building using CDC approved cleaning solutions.
  • We are providing CDC guidance to our staff and tenants regarding proper hand-washing and respiratory etiquette.

We will continue to monitor the situation and we will take any necessary steps to ensure we are available to serve our Policyholders during this pandemic.   That said, some services may be delayed or prohibited by government intervention including travel restrictions or quarantines.   We will make every effort to find workarounds in these situations and we appreciate your understanding.

Why shouldn't we just force companies like Farmers to pay business interruption claims from Coronavirus?

Insurance is meant to cover isolated, unforeseen incidents that create a risk to an individual or business. A sustained, global incident such as a pandemic that affects every person and every business simultaneously is not an insurable event simply because its impact is too wide and too damaging.  There is no way to anticipate, quantify, or price, such a widespread risk.   That is why it is excluded.

If coverage for this pandemic were to be mandated, it will likely cause the insurance market to collapse.   There is little question in the math – there is more potential exposure in COVID-19 business interruption claims than capital in the entire U.S. insurance industry.  That means insurance companies will likely become insolvent and insurance markets will not be able to survive.  Any individual companies that do survive would be unable to rely on any of their policy terms and would have to exit the market or price policies based on a virtually unlimited level of exposure.   This would make insurance unavailable or totally unaffordable for all but the largest corporations.  What happens to small businesses then?

Giving the government the power to retroactively change private contracts would be incredibly short-sighted and dangerous, which is why it is unconstitutional in the first place.   The NJ State Constitution states:

Article IV, Section VII, paragraph 2

  1. The Legislature shall not pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or depriving a party of any remedy for enforcing a contract which existed when the contract was made.

Collapsing the insurance industry and causing an insurance crisis for businesses while handing sweeping control over all private contractual relationships to politicians would be like destroying the village in order to save it.  This is not the answer.

SO, WHAT IS THE ANSWER?
The only entity large enough to respond to the nationwide impact of a pandemic, both physically and financially, is the federal government.   Steps have already been taken to provide access to funds to aid small businesses and more work is being done.   FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, exists to handle crises such as this and it already has the necessary mechanism in place to get funds directly to those who need them as does the IRS.   This is a national crisis that must be addressed by our government on a national level.

What resources are available to help small businesses during this crisis?

The Federal Government has passed sweeping legislation to aid small businesses during the pandemic.    We have tried to compile some resources here that may be helpful.

  • The US Chamber of Commerce has provided a Small Business Survival Guide with tons of useful information on the numerous government programs that are now available to assist small businesses.   Click here.
  • For an easy-to-follow guide and checklist on navigating the recently passed CAREs Act, please click here.
  • The Federal Small Business Administration (SBA) has comprehensive information on grants and loans.  Click here.
  • The State of NJ has provided an Emergency Assistance Eligibility Wizard to help determine if you qualify for aid.  Click here.
  • NJ also has a convenient Grant Estimator tool to help see what grants you might qualify for.   Click here.
  • The NJ Business and Industry Association (NJBIA) has a resource center with comprehensive Coronavirus information.  Click here.
  • For information about Coronavirus (COVID-19), visit the CDC’s website by clicking here.
  • The Department of Labor provides a number of Coronavirus resources on their site, located here.

Billing Questions

Who do I contact if I have a question about my bill?

Your Independent Agent should be your first contact for any questions about your policy.  If you are unable to reach your Agent, you may reach our Account Services Department at 908-782-4120, Option 1 and we will be happy to assist you.

What methods of payment do you accept?

We accept checks, e-checks, money orders, Visa/MasterCard/Discover credit cards and Visa/MasterCard debit cards. Payments can be made:

  • Online: Click here to pay online (Recommended)
  • Phone: Call 1-800-842-5032 and Dial 1 for the Account Services Department  weekdays between 8:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M
  • Mail: Farmers Insurance Company of Flemington, 23 Royal Road, Suite 500, Flemington, NJ 08822

When submitting your payment by mail:

  • Allow at least 7 business days for regular mail
  • Use the return envelope provided with your bill
  • Be sure to put your policy number on your check
  • Do not send cash
  • Be sure to sign your check

How will refunds be handled?

All refunds for cancellations, endorsements, and overpayments will be sent by check to the policyholder via regular mail.

Online Payment Questions

What internet browser do I need?

We actively support Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari, but most browsers should allow functionality for making payments.

Is paying on-line safe?

Making payments on-line is actually safer and more dependable than paying by mail. This system uses modern encryption technology to ensure that only those approved by you can have access to your confidential information.

Why is my e-mail address required on the payment page?

Your e-mail address is used to send you a confirmation of your payment or notify you of problems processing your payment.

How will I know my payment has been received?

After you have submitted your payment, a confirmation notice appears on the screen as well as one sent to your email address. Initially, your online invoice will display the payment status as “Pending”. Once the transaction has been completed between the financial institutions, your payment status will change to “PAID” – this usually takes no longer than 48 hours.

Is there a fee for making online payments?

No.   We cover the transaction fee charged by the bank.

Will I have access to past invoices and payment histories?

Yes. For users of our “Pay Now” option, the last 5 invoices and payments will be available; for “Enrolled” users, we maintain 24 months of invoices and payments.

Can I pay any amount?

You can pay the installment amount or the total amount due.

What happens if I make my payment on a weekend or holiday?

Your payment will be processed and posted on the next banking business day.

What occurs if I obtain a message alerting me my payment was not processed?

Successful submissions will be confirmed on the screen and via e-mail. Problems with payment submission will prompt an immediate alert on the screen and you will be informed that your payment did not process. You will be given a reason for the failed submission, i.e., incorrect account information; approval was not obtained from your financial institution, etc. Once you are alerted of the reason for the error, make the necessary correction(s) and resubmit payment. If we receive a chargeback from your financial institution, you will be assessed a $30.00 fee.

Claims Questions

How long will my claim take?

Every claim is unique, and there are many different factors that could affect how long it takes to resolve your claim.  Our goal is to resolve each claim as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What's a Deductible?

A deductible is the amount of money a policyholder must pay out-of-pocket toward damages or a loss before their insurance company will pay for a claim. You do not actually pay your deductible to your insurance company like you would a premium or bill.  If you file a claim and it is covered, the deductible is subtracted from the amount claimed.  For example, say you have a $500 deductible and you file a claim for $10,000. Your insurance company would pay you $9,500 for that claim.

Why is my mortgage company listed as a Payee on my settlement check?

The mortgage company is listed on the building payment because they have a financial interest in your property. Your insurance policy is a contract, that requires us to include your mortgage company’s name on any settlement check involving the building or other structure. Contact your mortgage company to determine what their requirements are for securing their endorsement.

The accident wasn't my fault. Will I have to pay my deductible?

Yes.  You will be responsible for any applicable deductible regardless of who is at fault for the loss.  However, if you are not at fault, we will seek reimbursement from the liable party on your behalf.   This process is called Subrogation.   If we recover any of the damages we paid, you will receive the same proportion of your deductible back.  So, if we recover 100% your full deductible will be refunded to you.

What should I do if I receive notice of a claim against me?

You should report the claim immediately and provide a copy of any documents you have received notifying you of the claim. You should not discuss the circumstances surrounding the claim with anyone other than your attorney or a representative of your insurance company.

Is my claim covered?

Your policy provides you with broad protection against many types of unexpected losses.  The best way to determine if your claim is covered is to read and understand your policy.   If you believe your loss is covered, you should file a claim.  Our Claims Team will investigate the facts surrounding the loss and your specific coverage to determine if your claim is covered.

Is my Homeowners policy the same as a maintenance contract or home warranty?

No.  Homeowners insurance is designed to protect against a wide variety of unexpected losses such as fire, windstorm, or a burglary.  It does not cover maintenance items, or wear and tear.   The best way to understand what your policy covers is to read it carefully.

What if I have an emergency situation and need repairs immediately?

For emergency repairs, like when a water line breaks in your home, you should undertake all reasonable and necessary measures to protect your property from further damage. Save all receipts and invoices for this work and take multiple photographs throughout the process.

If you sustained a serious loss such as a fire, a serious plumbing leak or severe structural damage and you need help with relocation or restoration services, you can reach our after-hours claims emergency center at (866) 631-9153.

Do I need to file a police report?

If you are involved in an accident or are the victim of a crime, you will need to file a police report at the time of the incident. This is particularly helpful for claims involving injury, when multiple parties are involved, or when fault is unclear.   It may be helpful to photograph the scene of a loss so your Claims Adjuster can better assess what happened.

Where do I find information about NJ Personal Injury Protection Claims?

For information regarding your PIP claim, please contact your Independent Agent or your Claim Representative.

A copy of Farmers Insurance Company of Flemington’s Decision Point Review Plan can be found here:  Farmers of Flemington DPR Plan

Our PIP Application can be downloaded here:  PIP Application

An Affidavit of No Insurance is mandatory for anyone other than our Named Insured who wishes to file a PIP claim under our Policy.  It can be downloaded here:  Affidavit of No Insurance

For Medical Providers:
The NJDOBI maintains a library of relevant information and mandatory forms at: PIP Information for Health Care Providers

I believe I have been the victim of identity theft. Can Farmers help me?

If you have a Home, Condo or Renters policy with Farmers of Flemington, you are automatically provided with access to free Identity Theft Resolution services from CyberScout, America’s premier provider of identity services.  If you believe your identity has been compromised, give us a call at (800) 842-5032 and our claims team will connect you to a fraud specialist who will work with you to get your identity restored.

Click here to learn more about our ID Theft resolution services from CyberScout.

My identity has been compromised. What about the costs I incur to get it restored?

Our identity resolution service is free to all Home, Condo and Renter Policyholders.  However, other costs may be incurred such as legal fees, costs for monitoring services, certified mail costs, lost earnings, loan or grant application fees, notary costs, and so forth.  These are not covered under a standard policy.

If you purchased our optional Identity Theft Expense Coverage endorsement then coverage is available for many of these costs up to the limit stated in your policy.  Be sure to report the matter to us immediately and before incurring any restoration charges since pre-approval of certain expenses is required by the policy.

Underwriting Questions

Will Farmers conduct an inspection of my property as part of the Underwriting process?

Yes, as part of our normal underwriting process, we inspect every new property we insure.  This is done so we can verify the information we have received about the property and to ensure there are no obvious hazards or conditions at the premises that would require a change in premium or make the property ineligible for coverage with us.

If our inspection reveals any hazards that need to be corrected in order for us to continue insuring the property, we will notify you through your Independent Agent.  We will explain the nature of the hazard and what needs to be done to correct it.   Don’t worry, you will have a reasonable amount of time to correct the hazard, though the length of time will vary depending on the severity of the problem.

In some cases, we may identify an issue that makes the property ineligible for coverage with us.  If that happens, we will provide you and your Independent Agent with a notice of cancellation as described in your policy and NJ Insurance Department regulations.  If cancellation becomes necessary, we recommend you arrange for replacement coverage with your Agent right away.

The sole purpose of our inspection and any recommendations for correcting hazards is to satisfy our requirements for insurability.  Our Underwriting inspection is not a safety or code inspection and it may not identify all hazards present.   Under no circumstances, do we certify or represent in any way that the premises or operations are safe and free from hazard, or that you meet the requirements of any state law, code or ordinance.

Will Farmers insure my premises if I have a trampoline?

No.  Properties with trampolines are not eligible for coverage.  Trampolines are inherently dangerous and their use often results in serious injuries, particularly to children, for which the homeowner may be held liable.   Trampolines send over 100,000 people to the hospital every year.  Typical injuries range anywhere from sprains and bruises to broken bones, concussions, traumatic brain injuries, paralysis and even death.  The significant risk involved with the use of trampolines coupled with the hyper-litigious environment in New Jersey makes them a risk we are unwilling to underwrite.

For more information on the dangers of trampolines, here are a few references:

Article: Hidden Dangers of Trampolines

Article: Surprising Dangers of Trampolines for Kids

Pediatrics Journal – Study on Trampoline Safety in Childhood and Adolescence

Article: Doctors Warn About Trampolines

Article: Backyard Dangers – Trampolines

Article: Trampolines Not Worth the Risk

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: Trampoline Injuries

Farmers sent me a Water Damage Loss Control Agreement for my secondary/seasonal property and I have a few questions

Q:  I have never shut my water off before and have never had a problem.  Why is the company now asking me to take steps to prevent my pipes from freezing?

A:   In recent years we have tracked an increasing frequency and severity of pipe freeze losses, particularly in our Secondary and Seasonal properties.   Since those properties are often unoccupied for long periods of time during the winter months, pipes that burst will continue pumping water into the premises causing catastrophic damage.  In 2014, the winter damages we incurred were equivalent to the losses we sustained in hurricane Irene.   Combined freeze losses between 2014 and 2018 had a greater impact on our Policyholders Surplus than Hurricane Sandy!  The worst part of it is, all these losses could have been avoided if the property owners had taken some very simple steps to prevent them, such as turning off the water to the property before leaving.

In order for us to keep premiums down and continue to insure secondary and seasonal properties, we need our Policyholders’ cooperation to mitigate these easily preventable, but very costly losses.

 

Q:  I’m confused.   What exactly does unoccupied mean?

A:    In this context, if you will not be returning to the property on a daily basis it is considered unoccupied.

Example:  The Policyholder visits the secondary property on weekends throughout the winter months, but does not stay there during the week.  The property is considered unoccupied during the week.  The proper action for the Policyholder is to shut the water off and ensure the heat is set to at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit when leaving at the end of each visit.

Example:  The Policyholder leaves for Florida in October and returns in May.  The property is unoccupied the entire time.

 

Q.  I hire a caretaker to check in on the property.  Isn’t that good enough?

A:  If you hire a property management firm to care for your property while you are away, we may be able to make an exception.   There would need to be a written contract and the caretaker must have proper liability insurance in place.  Any exception would depend on what the caretaker’s responsibilities and accountabilities are under the contract.  Please advise your Agent of your situation and they will discuss it with our Underwriter.

I want to prepare my Seasonal or Secondary property for winter to prevent the pipes from freezing using Option 1 on my loss control agreement. How do I go about it?

This depends somewhat on your particular plumbing system so if you have any questions, you should consult a licensed plumber.  If you have a water-based heating system such as radiant baseboard heat or steam heat, you will need to retain a licensed HVAC professional to properly winterize your property.

For anyone with a non-water based heating system such as forced air, the process is quite simple:

First,  set your water heater to “vacation” mode then locate your main shutoff valve.  It will typically look something like this:

Next, shut off the valve completely.  If the valve is stuck, do not force it.  Contact a plumber for assistance.

Once you have shut off the main valve, the pressure will be off to the plumbing system.  Now it is time to drain the pipes.

Starting on the highest floor of the house and working your way down, open all faucets including tubs and showers.  Flush all toilets and hold the handle down to drain as much water as possible. Don’t forget to open your outside hose spigots as well (hoses should be removed for the winter).  These are often the lowest faucets and will allow for the maximum amount of water to be drained from the system.  Once all the water is drained, close all the faucets.  Turn off any ice makers, humidifiers or other appliances that may call for water while the system is shut down.

That’s it — you’re done!

Remember to leave your thermostat set to at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit while the property is unoccupied.   Use a higher setting if the property is poorly insulated.

 

NOTE:  This process is not intended to be a complete winterization of the property.  There will still be some water left in the pipes and the water heater tank as well as toilet bowls and appliances like dishwashers.  If the heat fails or the temperature is set too low, it is still possible to have a freeze loss even after taking these steps, but since the water supply is turned off, water won’t continue to pump into the house causing major damage.

Some additional steps may be taken to further protect from plumbing losses.  These include blowing out the pipes with compressed air to remove all water, draining the water heater, and adding anti-freeze to drains and traps.   We are not asking our Policyholders to perform these extra steps, but here is a video explaining the process for anyone interested in doing a little bit extra to protect their investment:  This Old House – Winterize Pipes

 

This is intended to provide a general overview to illustrate how simple it is to protect the average home from frozen pipes in the off-season.  The information provided is illustrative only and does not consititute expert advice, nor is it intended to apply to every possible circumstance, many of which will be unique.  Please consult a licensed plumber to ensure you follow the process that is appropriate for your property.  Thanks and we hope this helps you keep your premises safe and loss-free this winter!