Beware… You may be living next door to a real jerk!

I recently received a distressed phone call from a  long time Auto and Homeowner’s Insurance client. Although claims and the entire claims process is a part of my everyday workday, customers seldom have claims.  When they do, it’s so important to understand how upset they are because the loss of your personal property is devastating.  It appears they woke up that same morning to find one of the next door neighbor’s large trees had fallen on to their property. Not only did the tree take down 15 feet of Split Rail Fencing, it also destroyed their children’s brand new, and very expensive, Wooden Swing Set and Play System. The total damage was about $15,000.

I told my clients, Linda and Bill; “before we put in a claim with your insurer (Travelers Homeowners Insurance Company), you should first talk with your neighbor about the damage.” If they are the good neighbors you say they are, I’m sure they will want to do the right thing and pay for the damage caused by their tree. They explained the neighbor was away for the weekend and would return on Sunday night.

The following Monday morning, Bill looked out his window to find his neighbor sipping a cup of coffee and looking at all the damage caused by his fallen tree.  Jim walked outside, greeted his neighbor of 10 years and asked him how his trip was. He also inquired how he wanted to handle the damage. The neighbor responded, “how I’m going to handle the damage” – He said;  “I’m not going to do anything.”

Bill laughed thinking his neighbor was joking.  After a moment, it soon become clear to Bill his neighbor was not joking. The neighbor went on to explain; “I called the Claims Department of my Homeowners Insurance Company when I got home last night. The Claims Representative told me it’s not his responsibility and that his policy does not need to pay for a tree falling and damaging another’s property.  Since the storm caused the tree to fall, It’s considered an ‘act of god.’”

Completely shocked and dismayed Bill replied, “Act of God! We have lived next door to each other for over 10 years. Our kids play ball together our wives are close friends, you have been a guest in my home on countless occasions. How about doing the right thing? How about the fact it’s your tree and it damaged my property. Don’t you feel any responsibility? This will cost me nearly $15,000.00 or more to repair and replace.”

The neighbor quietly proceeded to throw his cold coffee on the lawn and walk away.

A distraught Linda and Bill called me to tell me the story. The first question was “Mike, this can’t be true – can it?”

Unfortunately, it was true. In the State of Pennsylvania, unless it can be proven the tree had some type of disease or was not well maintained causing it to fall, the neighbor’s Homeowners Insurance Company is not responsible for paying for the damage.

But all was not bad news. “The good news,” I told them, his “Travelers Homeowners Insurance Company will pay the damage. Unfortunately you will be subject to the policy deductible which in your case is $500.”

“Please keep in mind,” I added, “The information your neighbor provided that he is not liable is based on Homeowners and Renters Insurance Underwriting Rules and regulations, not state law. Your neighbor may still be legally responsible for the damage. If you don’t want to file a claim with your Homeowners Insurance Company; you may be able to file a law suit against the neighbor in small claims court and sue for all the damage or for the return of your deductible. Before proceeding with any small claims court action, contact an attorney or local District Justice Office.”

Bill contacted his attorney.  His lawyer suggested he ask the neighbor to pay the deductible.  Bill agreed and called the neighbor while he was a work.  Bill explained to the neighbor his Travelers  Homeowners Insurance Policy would pay the entire cost of the claim less the deductible. Bill asked “Phil; “since it was your tree, would you help us out by paying the deductible”.  “Phil said no”.   What a Jerk.

– Mike

7/8/11 UPDATE:  If you think a story like the previous can’t have a happy ending – your wrong.  You’re going to love this. We had a pretty bad storm in our area during March.  A large tree branch from the another neighbor’s property crushed Bill’s neighbors kids car totalled it. It turned out Bill’s Jerky neighbor removed both Comprehensive & Collision Coverage to say money on his sons 2007 Nissan Maxima. Replacement on the car is near $9000.00.  When the neighbor called  the other neighbor, he was told to pound sand since he had heard how he treated my client. 



How long until “I told you so?”

Today is a very good time for auto insurance customers.  Anyone wanting to buy auto insurance can find a very good policy at a discounted price. Regardless of your driving record; anyone seeking to buy a cheap auto insurance policy can find an agency, company or website and buy any type of policy with general ease.

You know exactly what I’m talking about. Open a telephone book, watch TV, listen to the radio, go online, open your mail or email; there are endless opportunities daily to shop for an auto insurance policy. It’s almost like the Roaring Twenties — No one thinks it’s going to end. It’s been good for so long, no one realizes that the auto insurance business is just like any other. There are good times and bad. What most people don’t want to hear and most unlicensed auto insurance sites don’t have a clue about is that the good times are coming to an end. The online broker you choose to offer your car insurance is going to make all the difference when your rates go through the roof or your carrier non-renews your auto insurance policy.

There are swings in every business marketplace. The insurance business, specifically auto insurance, is not immune. Consumers have enjoyed this easy market (or as it’s known in the industry as a Soft Market) for over 10 years. In fact; this is the longest Soft Market the auto insurance industry this agent has seen in 25 years.

So, if we have been in the longest Soft Auto Insurance Market in the last 25 years, what can we expect next? Is the Hard Auto Insurance market coming?

Before I can even attempt to give you an answer to that question, you must understand the difference between both a Soft Auto Insurance Market and a Hard Auto Insurance Market. It’s quite easy to understand.

A Soft Auto Insurance Market is what all U.S. drivers have experienced for the last 10-plus years. It’s been an time of contentment among all those who buy auto insurance. In a soft auto insurance market,  rates a typically low. Auto insurance is at very competitive rates is typically easy to buy.  Meaning, if you call an auto insurance carrier, they will sell you an auto insurance policy with little to no difficult underwriting. Car insurance rates are much lower because competition among auto insurance companies is much stronger. Auto insurance companies tend to adopt much more lenient underwriting requirements to tempt more new prospective buyers and keep their auto insurance policy holders by  keeping the annual and semi-annual renewals at the same price as the previous policy term. Although soft markets normally cause significant underwriting losses for auto insurance companies, the last 10 years have been an unprecedented time of profitability for most auto and home insurance companies.

A Hard Auto Insurance Market is a phase of the property and casualty insurance cycle which is dominated by higher demand and lower supply. When the demand for insurance increases faster than the available supply of auto insurance programs, the outcome is a hardening of the auto insurance market, a.k.a. “The Hard Auto Insurance Market”. In this type of market, auto insurance is generally more difficult for drivers to secure. Further, drivers are  more likely to pay a much higher price. The property and casualty insurance market, which auto insurance is a big part of, is cyclical. While periods of hard and soft market conditions exist, the entire cycle is irregular and can be unpredictable.

Let me say that again, Unpredictable.

The cycle can be affected by the occurrence of a major insurable event, such as a hurricane, tsunami or other natural disaster. With the soft market lasting for such a long time, this agent feels a major market change is coming. The economy over the next decade will play a big role in the hardening of the upcoming auto insurance market. During this upcoming hard market, auto insurance buyers will lose their freedom of choice.  Although you will continue to see, hear and read the major auto and homeowners insurance carriers ads on TV, Radio and print;  hundreds of  auto insurance websites will go out of business. Why will they disappear?  You see, when the market hardens, demand increases and  fewer carriers offer products. Although many auto insurance shoppers don’t realize, the majority of auto insurance websites don’t really sell auto insurance. Sad but true!  They merely sell your auto insurance information to agents. When demand increases, the number of leads will increase.  Not only will the amount they sell your lead information for will be reduced substantially, the agent’s and carriers will not need to buy leads because they will receive an increase of their own.  The unlicensed auto insurance websites will disappear from the internet as fast as they appeared a few years ago.

If you are represented by an insurance network like; you will not need to worry about these issues. represents the top 30 auto insurance carriers. When ever you receive a renewal with a huge increase; your policy will automatically be shopped for a rate that is the same or lower than your current rate.


Michael E. Dortch
President &  Managing Agent
Corporate Home Office
618 South Broad Street
Lansdale, Pennsylvania  19446
(800) 807-0762  ext. 602