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home / insurance / in the media

North County Times
Nov 20, 2003

by Andrew Kleske

WORKING THE WEB FOR INSURANCE INFORMATION

There's something about almost having your entire state burn to the ground that sets folks to thinking about insurance.

Living in California means accepting the possibility that one day your home might be knocked down by an earthquake, burned up by a wild fire, washed away by a flash flood or condemned by the government so somebody can build a new shopping mall.

While insurance probably won't help with issues of politically motivated eminent domain, it can address some of the other aforementioned hazards. And so to the Web we go for help.

The California State Department of Insurance at www.insurance.ca.gov has an informative booklet online titled "What You Need to Know About Today's Homeowner's Insurance Market." While it will never make The New York Times best-seller list, it is a good first stop for property owners trying to navigate the complicated options.

Also covered on the site is the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, a controversial credit scoring database used by the insurance industry, and the department's Earthquake Grant and Loan Program, which provides funds for homeowners to retrofit their properties.

The Insurance Information Network of California at www.iinc.org is a nonprofit, non-lobbying organization that serves as a clearinghouse for information provided by more than a dozen insurers. It features helpful English and Spanish-language consumer brochures in PDF and text formats, press releases on the latest issues and the site's best feature, a glossary of insurance terms.

The Web has made shopping for coverage easier by making all sorts of online insurance calculators available. Sites such as www.netquote.com, www.insurancefinder.com, www.quotesauction.com and a host of others require submission of contact information, which opens the user up to solicitations from a wide range of client agencies.

Users might be better served by picking two or three of the major providers and using their online quote calculators to get a good picture of prevailing rates.

The Automobile Club of Southern California at www.aaa-calif.com, American Express at www.americanexpress.com, Allstate at www.allstate.com and the rest of the major providers have online tools to streamline the quote process.

For an insider's look at the trends in the industry, there are several online newsletters including Insurance Newsnet at www.insurancenewsnet.com and the Insurance Journal at www.insurancejournal.com.

The Web site of insurance-rating agency A.M. Best at www.ambest.com features a lot of the information the company uses to publish its well-known Best's Insurance Reports and Best's Market Share Reports. While more in-depth information is available for fees that probably are cost-prohibitive for the average insurance consumer, this information-rich site has enough general information available for free to make it well worth a visit.

There are several so-called insurance advocate sites online; however, many appear to be fronts for a particular law firm looking for clients. Some that are independent include the United Policyholders at www.unitedpolicyholders.org, the Insurance Consumer Advocate Network at www.ican2000.com and the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights at www.consumerwatchdog.org.
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Andrew Kleske is online editor for the North County Times. E-mail him at
kleske@nctimes.com

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